Johannesburg – A last-minute agreement by two rival Soweto taxi associations to avert the closure of taxis ranks by the provincial government amid ongoing violence has failed to convince authorities.
This means millions of workers relying on minibus taxis for transport may be forced to make alternative arrangements following a drastic decision to shut down six taxi ranks and routes in Soweto.
Ismail Vadi, Gauteng Transport MEC, implemented the decision this week, sparking outrage among some unions in the sector and panic among commuters.
The South African Transport Allied Workers Union (Satawu) labelled the move “harsh” and argued that the move would “only punish the poor”.
Satawu called for the Gauteng government to review its decision.
The shutdown comes against the backdrop of ongoing confrontation between two rival taxi associations, the Witwatersrand Taxi Association and Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association, fighting over lucrative routes.
The feud has led to at least three murders this year.
Jack Mazibuko, Satawu’s general secretary, said there would be a ripple effect on commuters.
“The late arrival at work will lead to the violation of their contractual obligations and to negate this they are forced to leave their home an hour or two earlier.
“This subjects them to a web of violence ranging from mugging to the sexual violation of women.”
Yesterday Vadi said more than 100 police and traffic officials were deployed at six specified ranks and routes to enforce the closure.
“No person is allowed to operate minibus taxi services along the specified ranks and routes in Soweto.
“Those who insist on operating taxis in the prohibited areas may face prosecution.
“Where a person is convicted of contravening a regulation, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding R25000 may be imposed.”
It appears the associations signed an agreement yesterday expressing their willingness to work together.
However, Vadi said he would “consider further constructive representation on the matter”.
Despite the inconvenience to commuters, Vadi insisted the move was necessary.
“The department is fully aware that the decision will inconvenience commuters and residents in affected areas; however, the safety of commuters and residents comes first.”
Commuters were encouraged to use city buses, Putco and Metrorail.
Attempts to obtain comment from the taxi associations were unsuccessful.