Cape Town - This year was possibly one of the most violent years in the taxi industry, especially the month of July.
Some 123 people were killed this year alone, up from 116 killed last year, during taxi violence and 78 were left injured. Among the dead and injured were innocent commuters who were caught in the crossfire.
The youngest victim to be caught in the crossfire was a five-month-old. The baby was shot on July 15 when armed men opened fire in a minibus taxi in Mew Way, Harare.
At the heart of the violence is the B97 taxi route between Bellville and Paarl. The route remains closed for a further three months to restore calm.
“When MEC Mitchell was appointed in May, he introduced an open-door policy with stakeholders including the taxi industry,” said Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson to MEC for Transport and Public Works, Daylin Mitchell. “It was a challenging year with the MEC receiving baptism of fire when violence escalated between Cata and Codeta.”
She said the department is currently empowering legal operators and incentivising good driver behaviour through programmes such as:
Red Dot – Contracting legal taxi operators as essential services to transport nurses to health facilities during curfew hours (and also transporting patients to quarantine and isolation facilities).
Blue Dot – Taxis fitted with tracking devices that monitor driver behaviour and with incentives for behaviour that contribute towards safe and dignified transport services.
Three years ago, Paarl Alliance became affiliated with Codeta and allegedly began poaching from Cata Boland Association. When more members left Cata Boland, they left with their operating permits and Cata believes that an operating licence is not supposed to automatically move with individuals when they decide to move to another association.
Following the failure to reach long-lasting agreements between the department of transport and the associations, an arbitration process was started the report was delivered to the MEC.
“The arbitration award was received three weeks ago. Minister Mitchell and the department are currently in the process of studying the award and are looking at ways on how the award should be implemented. An announcement will be made in due course,” said Makoba-Somdaka.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, together with the general secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi held a meeting with both associations this year to try and end the violence. It might have died down but Holomisa does not believe the feud is over.
“It is far from over because the government does not listen to us,” he said.
Holomisa made recommendations to both provincial and national governments on how to deal permanently deal with the taxi violence.
“Whenever there are issues, our government prefers short-term solutions and no permanent solution is ever found. The arbitration findings should be made public so that all those involved can study them and make their own minds about whatever is there.”
Both associations are waiting to hear about the findings and recommendations that the MEC is still studying.