Taxi gridlock snarls up city

2019-06-12 15:25
Taxis parked on either side of Pietermaritz Street causing the traffic to gridlock on one of the city's busiest routes.

Taxis parked on either side of Pietermaritz Street causing the traffic to gridlock on one of the city's busiest routes.

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Where are Msunduzi’s traffic officers?

Gridlocked traffic, hazard lights flashing, hooters honking, weaving in and out of long queues of traffic: that is the frustrating reality motorists travelling along Pietermaritz Street face, with no sign of municipal traffic officials.

Pietermaritz Street has been reduced to a single lane after taxis abandoned the taxi rank in the basement of the Professor Nyembezi Centre and relocated onto the street.

The blockade has been going for over a week and it stemmed from taxi operators’ refusal to use the taxi rank until Msunduzi deals with the leaking pipes, emptying the underground tank and fumigating mosquitoes.

While a clean-up operation is under way at the taxi rank, criticism has been levelled at Msunduzi’s traffic department for a lack of law enforcement in the area as taxis are parked on either side of the road causing traffic congestion and chaos.

But Msunduzi Municipality acting spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said traffic officers had been deployed to control the traffic on Pietermaritz Street.

She said issues raised by the taxi association in relation to the maintenance of the Professor Nyembezi taxi rank were also being addressed.

While The Witness asked if there was an interim solution to deal with the congestion, no answer was given.

However, many motorists said there were no traffic officers to be seen in the area. A fed-up motorist who works in the vicinity of Pietermaritz Street said his daily drive to work had turned into a “nightmare”.

“I come off Boshoff Street and turn into Pietermaritz to get to work. In the morning at around 7.30 am there’s already taxis blocking the lanes,” said the motorist. “At around 8 am it’s even worse. If you need to drive into Pietermaritz, you must take the side roads from a parallel street to get to where you need to go.”

Another motorist said the corner of Pietermaritz and Boshoff streets was chaos. “I sat through three changes in the traffic lights and the intersection remained gridlocked. This is unacceptable. Where are the traffic officers? The taxi drivers are a law unto themselves.”

Businesses operating on Pietermaritz Street said they were being adversely affected by the blockade.

One business owner, who asked to remain unnamed, said: “This is affecting us in a big way. We are at a standstill and have lost a phenomenal amount of business in the last week.”

He said while they had complained to Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo, there was still no interim solution for the traffic chaos.

“The traffic officers are scared of the taxi drivers. There were traffic officers once or twice trying to control the flow of traffic, but they were chased away by the taxi drivers.”

Another business owner said: “It’s bad but we can’t complain because we’ll be victimised. They could come with guns or vandalise the shop.”

He said their shop would like to increase security, but they could not afford more security measures.

A car dealership staffer said: “We are being careful. We just run into the shop if anything happens outside. Luckily we are only open from 9 am to 5 pm.”

While the blockade continues, a company contracted to Msunduzi Municipality has started clean-up operations inside the taxi rank.

A foreman, who spoke to The Witness at the taxi rank, said all the sewer and storm water drains were blocked.

“We started working last Wednesday. The smell has subsided, but we are still clearing out the drains using the jetting and vacuum trucks.”

He said the clean-up operation would be completed by the end of the week.

uMgungundlovu Regional Taxi Council chairperson Bheki Sokhela said they were aware of the problems at the taxi rank and had met with the municipality several times in a bid to avoid the current situation. “Our main concern is the safety and welfare of the commuters we serve. That taxi rank is filthy, and people can’t be expected to work in an environment that is infested with mosquitoes,” said Sokhela.

He said taxi drivers and informal traders were conducting their business surrounded by pools of sewage because pipes above are leaking. Sokhela added that although there was a taxi holding facility at the end of the Hoosen Haffejee and Masukwana intersection, he was unsure why taxi drivers were not occupying it.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi strike

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