Taxi war erupts in Newcastle

2011-12-21 00:00

THE Newcastle taxi rank was turned into a battlefield by members of two taxi associations who were fighting about the taxi route from the Northern KZN town to Johannesburg yesterday.

Their embers attacked each other with a variety of weapons, including knobkerries, sticks and sjamboks, after an argument about whose turn was it to take on passengers.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said high-ranking officers with a contingent of over 100 police officers converged at the rank in an attempt to quell the feud between Masihambisane and Sizwe Taxi Associations.

“It is alleged that a rift had developed between the two associations over the route from Newcastle to Johannesburg, flaring up into a protracted feud, which resulted in a violent clash in the early hours of this [yesterday] morning. Reinforcements were called from neighbouring police stations to assist in stabilising the situation,” said Zwane.

Fifty-two people, aged between 22 and 50, were arrested for public violence and police confiscated a number of the weapons used in the attack. No firearms were used during the fight.

Two minibus taxis were impounded, Zwane said, adding that some of those involved in the violence sustained minor injuries and were attended by paramedics.

A senior member of Masihambisane association blamed the Sizwe association for the feud.

The member, who asked not to be named, said that on November 3 the high court in Pietermaritzburg issued an order for both associations to use the same route.

He said the court ordered that when one taxi from one association was loading, the other association should wait its turn.

He said that yesterday morning when their taxi was loading Sizwe blocked it from doing so without giving reason.

“That’s how the fight broke out. We work with the public here so incidents like this put their safety in jeopardy; hence the need for transport MEC to come and sort this out.

“Answers need to be given as to why the court order is not followed.

“We are also unhappy about the police siding with one association to the detriment of the other.”

He said most of the arrested were members of his association.

Sizwe Association spokesperson Pillet Manqele said the problem could be solved if both parties could load from their designated bays.

He said: “The court order stipulates Masihambisane to load facing Sutherland Street and to have one vehicle at a time, but that is not happening. To solve this we need to stick to our areas as per the rank registrar”

Transport Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the Newcastle issue was handled by an arbitrator to decide who should operate where on that route.

Yesterday police kept a strong presence at the rank and taxi operations were suspended pending negotiations among the stakeholders.

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