Business operations in South Circular Road in Kimberley have been disrupted after taxis packed the road in front of local business premises.
BUSINESS operations in South Circular Road in Kimberley have been disrupted after taxis packed the road in front of local business premises on Monday.
Both traffic lanes were packed with taxis, which had moved from the now-closed Bultfontein Taxi Rank, as they lined up and parked in the street.
Motorists were forced to make use of alternative routes as access in and out of the street became a nearly impossible task.
Local businesses indicated that their operations were disrupted and they had to cancel deliveries for the day.
“Things were normal when we opened the doors of our businesses for the day. However, things changed after we saw taxis starting to line up about an hour after opening time,” the local business owners said.
“The taxis first started lining up at the bottom of the street, close to the Bultfontein Taxi Rank. We were under the impression that they were going to remain at the bottom of the street, but we saw more and more taxis lining up in the street until both lanes were nearly filled – from the bottom to the top of the street.
“That has made access to our businesses very challenging to our clients as they have to park their own vehicles around the corner from our business premises and then walk to access our services. We were also unable to make any deliveries to clients as our company vehicles could not move in and out of the business premises as the taxis are parked at the gates and doors of the businesses.
“Even staff members who had to run errands like fetching their children from school were forced to make alternative arrangements as their own vehicles were blocked by the parked taxis.”
The business owners said they were the victims of a fight that did not involve them.
“We understand that Sol Plaatje Municipality had to move the taxis from the Bultfontein Taxi Rank, however, it is not certain whether there were clear discussions on where the new taxi rank would be. Taxis are crucial to the working class in the city and it appears that the municipality did not make alternative plans on where the taxis should be relocated to.
“This is hampering our businesses as we now have to feel the brunt of the anger of the taxi drivers. We are unfairly involved and badly affected by a fight between the taxi association and the municipality. We just want this problem to be resolved so we can run our businesses as usual.”
The Kimberley Local Taxi Association (KLTA) decoding secretary, Bongi Dike, said they had no choice but to make use of the street as the municipality did not stick to the terms of the agreement on the relocation.
“We had a meeting with the municipality, De Beers and the local traffic manager on October 18 regarding the relocation. We agreed to relocate to the Indian centre after we were informed that there were some cracks that stretched from the Big Hole to the Bultfontein Taxi Rank. We, however, told the municipality, in the presence of De Beers and the local traffic officials, that we needed some maintenance to be done at the Indian centre before we could relocate,” said Dike.
“Currently, the toilet facilities at the Indian centre are not in proper working condition. There is also no electricity and no basic maintenance has been done at the premises. The municipality has since the day of the agreement failed to carry out any of those tasks.
“We also said they must speak to the owners of the small shops located at the Indian centre as their vehicles are parked in the area where we are supposed to park our taxis. That was also not done and we are just expected to push people out of their parking zones.
“We know that taxi drivers and taxi owners are labelled as ‘hooligans’, but we refuse to relocate to a premises that is not suitable for any human. That would be insane. The municipality would fail to attend to any of the terms agreed upon should we decide to adhere to the relocation.”
Dike added that while they share the frustrations of the local businesses, the blame should be placed squarely at the door of the municipality.
“We do not want to appear as heartless individuals who do not care for others, because we do care. We are, however, left with no choice because the moment that we relocate to the Indian centre, the municipality will forget about their promises made to us.
“This fight might take years to resolve and we will again be blamed for the state of the premises. We cannot allow our members to work under such conditions nor can we allow our customers to be in such conditions. Basic maintenance and proper working facilities at a place of employment should not be seen as a luxury but as a basic human right for all employees.
“We cannot park at Bultfontein Taxi Rank as it is barricaded. The rank was barricaded on Friday night and no motorist can make use of it. We are left with no choice as we have to work.”
Municipal workers were on Monday hard at work cleaning the ablution facilities at the Indian centre.
The entrance to the men’s toilets was blockaded by a huge pile of rubble. Municipal workers had to break the burglar gate in order to clear up the rubble.
Some of the women’s toilets were broken and appeared to be non-functional.
The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci), Sharon Steyn, supported the stance of the KLTA.
Steyn pointed out that proper consultation is required from the municipality in order for the relocation to be a success.
“The effect that the closure of Bultfontein Road had on business when it was first closed under the ‘Disaster Management Act’ was devastating. Many businesses lost everything. Now, 14 years later, after the taxis have been making use of the road, no official statement has ever been given from De Beers or Sol Plaatje as to whether the road is open or closed,” said Steyn.
“Nocci has for the past two years requested feedback from Sol Plaatje and De Beers on the status of the road … with no success.
“The Kimberley CBD already has a major problem with parking. This has not been thought through and this needs to be done as a matter of urgency. The taxis are now parking in South Circular and George streets, leaving the businesses without any parking for their customers. We cannot blame the taxis as I personally believe it has not been discussed with the taxi association either,“ said Steyn.
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet said they are working on resolving the matter.
“We are aware of the situation in South Circular Road and it is very unfortunate. We are working on resolving the issue. Our employees are also attending to the problems at the Indian centre and we are hopeful this matter will be resolved soonest, said Riet.