City taxi blockade threat

2017-09-19 13:45
Fears of traffic chaos as rival groups clash.

Fears of traffic chaos as rival groups clash. (File)

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Thousands of minibus taxi commuters could on Wednesday find themselves stranded following plans by taxi owners to disrupt taxi operations in the Esigodini area and surrounds.

As taxi violence sparked by disputes over routes grips the Edendale and Esigodini areas, the so-called illegal taxi operators have vowed to bring traffic to a standstill should they continue to be barred from operating.

This after the Umkhonto group, which represents taxi owners that had been labelled illegal by the Transport Department, were barred from operating in the area by authorities.

At least three shootings, one of which was fatal, have been reported over the past weeks. This past weekend, two houses were torched as rivalry between the two groups continued.

The Esigodini area is currently being run by two associations.

On Monday, the Umkhonto group held a meeting where a decision was made to suspend all operations indefinitely, which would result in commuters being stranded.

“Our drivers refuse to go out and work because they are being targeted. We would like to advise commuters to make alternative travelling arrangements as this problem could continue indefinitely,” one of the owners of an “illegal” taxi said.

The dispute has been raging since late last year when the Umkhonto group asked to be allowed to operate along the Esigodini to Pietermaritzburg CBD route.

“Esigodini/Edendale wants to take control of our route, and are pushing us out. They don’t want the route to be spread among the different operators, they just want total ownership, which is not fair,” he added.

The taxi boss said they had then been targeted when the Esigodini/Edendale Taxi Association brought in a private security company from Durban.

“It’s hurtful that there are taxis operating in the area but our taxis are not allowed.”

The 15 taxi owners who are not allowed to operate in the area said they negotiated for membership.

“We had an agreement with Esigodini/Edendale that our taxi owners get membership, which they were okay with, but when it was time for that to happen they refused.”

The “illegals” accused the Esigodini/Edendale taxi association of bullying them in their own branch. “They want to bring in taxis owned by outsiders to operate in the area. We won’t allow it. We are concerned about our livelihoods and those of our workers.”

They said they have tried to get the uMgungundlovu Regional Taxi Association to set regulations that both Umkhonto and Esigodini/Edendale Taxi Associations would have to adhere to in order to operate in the area.

They refuted allegations that their group was to blame for the violence.

Umgungundlovu Regional Taxi Association chairperson Bheki Sokhela said they had made attempts to bring calm to the area, but to no avail.

“We have left it in the hands of the police to arrest all the perpetrators inciting the violence. It’s difficult to negotiate with the illegals because we don’t know who they are,” he said.

KZN Transport, Community Safety and Liaison spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said the police will deal with the law breakers.

He said the department was not willing to negotiate with illegal operators. “The law says a taxi operator must have a permit. If you don’t have it, you are illegal. We are not going to negotiate with people who are breaking the law.”

Attempts to get comment from the Esigodini/Edendale Taxi Association were unsuccessful on Monday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi industry

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