Western Cape closes roads to end deadly taxi violence

The route between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville, Route B97, has been closed in response to violence in the taxi industry.

Western Cape head of transport Daylin Mitchell has enforced Section 91(2) of the National Land Transport Act with effect from next Monday.

“All routes and ranks, including lanes and long-distance route facilities situated at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange are closed for the operation of any minibus taxi-type service for a period of two months, commencing on 26 July 2021” Mitchell said on Friday.

The move was expected after a series of fruitless consultations between the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) and the local and national government to try to resolve the turf war over routes  between the rival groups.

Since the start of the year, 83 taxi-related murders and 56 taxi-related attempted murders have occurred in the Western Cape, with more than 20 people gunned down this July alone. At least 120 000 commuters were left stranded this week as Cata, Codeta and several other transport services limited their operations because of taxi violence. 

“The conduct of a small group of criminals is holding the residents of Cape Town hostage, and we will not stand for it,”  the department of transport said earlier this week.

The provincial government has been acting as an arbitrator since 9 July between Cata and Codeta to resolve the deadly conflict mainly caused by disputes over the “ownership” of the route between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville. But the meetings have not yielded any positive result.

After the most recent meeting, which lasted six hours on Wednesday, Codeta spokesperson Lesley Siphukela told the Mail & Guardian that there was still a deadlock “as parties could not agree on a compromise”.

Codeta previously told M&G that implementing Section 91 — closing off all routes and minibus taxi ranks — was not the answer. “Both parties, Cata and Codeta, do not want the ranks to be closed. It will also affect the smaller organisations as well and those who are not involved in this fight, as we have already seen.”

After the announcement that the Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville route would be closed, Cata’s Mandla Hermanus said: “We are disappointed that it had to come to a point where a route has to be closed by (the) government because of this impasse. It means we as the taxi industry have failed the people who rely on our services for their daily commute.” 

He said the rival associations were “continuing to engage each other with the hope of reaching a compromise that will allow us to resume with the operations”.

Mitchell’s spokesperson, Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka,said the implementation of Section 91 was the last resort as the “government has to protect the community”. 

Mitchell is expected to announce this weekend alternative travel arrangements for commuters affected by the closure of Route B97.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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