Home conflict, war and peace Mbalula warns taxi bodies to find a solution … or else government...

Mbalula warns taxi bodies to find a solution … or else government will find it for them

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said talks were on the ’brink’ of reaching an agreement and warned that if none was forthcoming, the government would have to make a decision on how to resolve the crisis.

Mtobeli James, father of deceased Okuhle James, 21, who was shot and killed in a taxi violence-related incident on Friday. The distraught father greets Minister Fikile Mbalula who visited the family at their home in Khayelitsha. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – As the transport industry scrambles to find a solution to the escalating taxi violence, businesses and communities are counting the losses.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbaula, Provincial Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz and representatives of the two main taxi bodies in the Western Cape, the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), met on Friday and Sunday in a bid to end the violence, which left 23 people dead this week.

At the centre of the dispute is the Paarl-Mbekweni route, which both bodies want to control.

An agreement was expected to be signed by the taxi bodies soon.

Mbalula said talks were on the “brink” of reaching an agreement and warned that if none was forthcoming, the government would have to make a decision on how to resolve the crisis.

“There are reports that heavy artillery is being used in the shootings, automatic rifles, including AK47s on civilians, killing innocent people. This cannot be left to continue,” Mbalula said.

He added that two options were on the negotiation table, and details would be revealed once an agreement has been reached.

But a source close to the talks said the bone of contention related to a proposal to resume operations on the routes that are not being contested.

But allegedly, Cata, the permit holders to operate on the Paarl-Bellville route, was not happy with the proposal.

According to the source, former Cata members who later joined Codeta were operating using permits they got while they were Cata members.

“Simply put, they received the permits through their membership. And now that they are no longer members, they cannot be allowed to operate,” the source claimed.

Mbalula said after Friday’s meeting, Codeta wanted to be given an opportunity to consult its members and were afforded the opportunity.

Just as the meeting finished on Friday, a 35-year-old man was killed in another taxi-related incident near Bardale Village.

A 28-year-old man who was with the deceased in the same vehicle survived the shooting.

Police said no one had been arrested yet and were still investigating cases of murder and attempted murder.

The violence which erupted over the route dispute left scores of people dead, including passengers.

Mbalula visited the family of one of the victims, a 21-year-old woman, Okuhle James, who was shot and killed in Endlovini, Khayelitsha, on Thursday as she was boarding a taxi to Mitchell’s Plain.

Mbalula described the killing as senseless, and the government would have to make a decision at some point about what needed to happen.

Okuhle’s father, Mtobeli James, appealed to Mbalula to help end the violence.

A distraught James said he cheated death himself when a taxi he had travelled in on Tuesday was shot at.

“The taxis started running again on Monday after the services were withdrawn. I thought it was safe to use them again. But we were shot at while inside the taxi in Khayelitsha. When we managed to get out, the gunmen tried to shoot us again.

“Okuhle decided not to go to work that day as she works at the same printing company as me while continuing with her studies. Then on Thursday, she fell victim to taxi violence. She was my only hope that she would improve the lives of the family. Now that she’s gone, things will never be the same again in this family,” James said.

Mbalula said an urgent solution was needed as the other modes of public transport, including trains, were not operational.

The MyCiTi bus service from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain had also not been operating for close to two years over a dispute between the taxi bodies and the City of Cape Town.

Businesses have also been left reeling by the taxi violence as workers from the affected townships could not get to work.

Since the beginning of July, there have been 29 attempted murders and 23 murders associated with the industry, according to the Transport department.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said almost every business in Cape Town and surrounding areas was affected as the taxi industry provided a vital public service.

Chamber President Jacques Moolman said: “At a time when taxi associations in the beleaguered parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were coming forward in the interest of stability and their customers, the Cape Associations seemed bent on fighting each other.”

“It makes no business sense at all. Were all forms of public transport to concentrate on public safety, more people would use it instead of clogging the roads,” Moolman said.

The body for the hospitality industry, Fedhasa Cape, said many hotels provided rooms for staff to stay over for early and evening shifts. The taxi violence came amid the relaxation of lockdown regulations in the hospitality industry.

Fedhasa Cape Chairperson Jeremy Clayton said the body had met with provincial leaders and premier Alan Winde earlier in the week to “understand” how they were dealing with the taxi violence and were reassured of measures to bring about stability in the taxi industry.

Moolman said with the virtual collapse of the Metro rail service on key commuter lines, matters were worse than they already were due to the heavy private traffic in the morning and evening rush hours and now the taxi violence.

Earlier in the week, a notice of intention to close the affected taxi ranks (Bellville and Mbekweni), which was  open for public comment until midnight on July 16 was published.

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