Commuters left stranded as Azalea taxi protest deepens

2017-05-09 13:45
Azalea township was engulfed in smoke yesterday after a taxi protest broke out, halting all the taxi operations in the area. Imbali Unit 18 was also affected during the protest.

Azalea township was engulfed in smoke yesterday after a taxi protest broke out, halting all the taxi operations in the area. Imbali Unit 18 was also affected during the protest. (Sabelo Nsele)

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WATCH: Protesters in KZN barricade road, force police car to turn around

2015-08-04 12:32

Violent protests relating to an increase in taxi fares have erupted in Ezakheni near Ladysmith, forcing police vehicles to turn away from barricaded roads.WATCH

Taxi operations in Imbali Unit 18 and Azalea township ground to a halt on Monday.

Commuters were left stranded as taxi operators stopped work in the early hours of Monday morning.

Cars could not enter or leave the area as all roads were blocked with burning tyres.

The protest action started on Friday with a go-slow approach after a taxi operator was shot, apparently after a confrontation.

On Monday, the matter threatened to turn ugly as some commuters who tried to walk to nearby KwaPata to catch taxis, were intimidated by the disgruntled protesters.

Topping the grievances presented by community members is the tenure of chairperson Dumisani Zungu, who has held the position for the past 20 years.

They accuse Zungu of “snubbing” numerous meetings called by the community to address their complaints about taxi operations in the area.

They also complain that most of the taxis operating in the area are owned by “outsiders” to the detriment of locals, whom they say are not allowed to join the association.

Police were called to monitor the situation after a fire engine was chased away when it tried to enter the township which was engulfed in smoke. Later, the smog from the fires blanketed the city.

Plessislaer police spokesperson Captain Musa Ntombela said police were investigating a case of public violence.

Zungu directed all queries to Santaco regional chairperson Bheki Sokhela.

Sokhela said most of the grievances submitted by the community had nothing to do with taxi operations in the area, but were rather about the affairs of the taxi association.

“We had a meeting with them before the Easter weekend. They complained that they have been trying to get the chairman on numerous occasions to come and address them. We explained that he could not come because he had received threats.

“They also asked ... whether he would be re-elected again. They said he had been the chairperson for the past 20 years. We told them that the chairperson is not elected by the community members, but is elected by taxi operators. If the taxi operators feel the need to elect him again, he will be elected. You cannot blame him for being the chairperson for 20 years; he did not elect himself.

“There were also complaints that the association was not accepting new operators. There is a directive from the province on all the 246 associations not to accept new operators. Also, you cannot resolve that matter with a mass community meeting.

“Whoever wants to join the association must approach the association [and not do so] through a community meeting,” he said.

Sokhela said the only concern from community members that related to taxi operations in the area, was the shortage of taxis.

“The problem is that there is the construction in Crossing. That is where the taxis get stuck. We approached the municipality and asked them to send traffic controllers during peak hours. Since then things have been better.”

Sokhela said the region will try to solve the problem.

“Whatever the differences, they should not affect the commuters,” he said.

By the time of going to press, all the stakeholders involved were locked in a meeting.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi protests

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