Taxi owners call for speed

2017-06-20 09:50
Members of Retreat Taxi Association blocked the corner of Prince George Drive and Military Road last week to protest government’s slow pace in enforcing operator routes.

Members of Retreat Taxi Association blocked the corner of Prince George Drive and Military Road last week to protest government’s slow pace in enforcing operator routes. (TIYESE JERANJI)

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Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) members say they are prepared to be arrested and have their taxis impounded – as long as the taxi dispute is not resolved, they are not backing down.

Last Wednesday about 50 taxi drivers blocked the corner of Prince George Drive and Military Road, demanding officials of the department of transport address their grievances.

After they left Prince George Drive they went to Blue Route Mall in Tokai to continue the protest. The next day they took to the street again, saying they will not allow illegal taxi operators to work on their routes.

RTA management claims about 65 taxis of the Vrygrond Taxi Association (VTA) are using their routes illegally.

RTA chairperson Jay-Jay Maans says their calls are falling on deaf ears.

“We are told to email, and each time we do so no-one comes back to us. This has been going on for years and we will put a stop to it. We have been begging and pleading with the officials to get illegal taxis off our routes but nothing is done.

“We don’t know how many times we have called for help; no-one is listening to us, they can’t even resolve the problem, so we have to do it ourselves.

We are prepared to be arrested and taxis impounded: We just don’t want illegal operators anymore,” says Maans.

A taxi owner who spoke on condition of anonymity says it has been a struggle the last five years.

“I have been in this industry for the last 25 years, but in the last couple of years things have been bad. I had to take my child out of college because I couldn’t afford it.

“The people operating on our routes illegally are really making life difficult for us. It’s like every day the piece of the cake is getting smaller. They must operate on our routes but if we do the same, our taxis are hijacked and drivers beaten up. We can’t work like that.

“We have to block the road so that the department can hear us and sort out this situation. We are not asking them to move the earth, we just don’t want illegal taxis on our routes. It’s affecting our businesses and our families are suffering. What we are doing is just a call to the officials to do their work and we will not stop until they listen,” he says.

Steenberg police spokesperson Warrant Officer John Bartlett confirms taxis blocked the road again last Thursday.

“Tyres were burnt next to the road and this disrupted the traffic on the roads. Taxi drivers and their sliding door operators were standing in the road and on the sidewalks. Other road users were directed in another route. Steenberg police, with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, brought in about seven taxi drivers and sliding door operators for profiling and they were released afterwards.

“The protest is about routes and the attacks on the Vrygrond taxis by other taxi associations,” he says.

Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson of the Department of Transport and Public Works, says the provincial transport registrar instituted disciplinary action against the VTA for contravening the code of conduct for taxi associations by taking on unregistered and unlicensed members, flooding routes with illegal operators and preventing legal RTA operators from entering certain areas.

“VTA has used every opportunity to delay, frustrate and hinder the registrar’s process, with their latest attempt last week being a request for a high court order to stop the process. This attempt was unsuccessful, with the high court dismissing VTA’s case and the department securing a cost order against the association.

“Throughout the process, departmental officials were in contact with both parties, including RTA executive members to keep them informed and to appeal for cool heads and respect for the law,” he says.

The department’s provincial traffic services, City of Cape Town’s traffic and police officers have held regular enforcement operations in the area. This year alone they have registered some 865 fines and impounded 29 taxis working without operating licences, he says.

Dube says while RTA members may feel frustrated by the delays in the legal process, they have been warned in the past not to take the law into their own hands.

“The department wishes to remind RTA members and its executive of the action taken by the provincial regulatory entity and the registrar against Uncedo Taxi Association in George, where individual operators who participated in illegal protest actions, including the blockade of roads, had their operating licences either cancelled or suspended.”

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