Minibus taxi services at five taxi ranks in Soweto that were shut by the provincial department of transport for the past month were restored on Tuesday after Gauteng Transport MEC, Ismail Vadi lifted his suspension of the routes.
The decision has brought much needed relief to hundreds of commuters in the area who over the past month have found themselves spending more money and travelling for longer periods to get to and from work.
The suspension was lifted after the two rival taxi associations – Wits Taxi Association (Wata) and Nancefield-Dube West Association (Nanduwe) reached an agreement on the conditions under which the two would operate.
According to the agreement the associations have committed to:
Wata and Nanduwe have been fighting over five taxi ranks (Mofolo, Phefeni, Uncle Tom, Makgetha, and Dube Station) and several routes in the greater Soweto area for over a year. The route disputes have often degenerated into violence that has left no fewer than 13 people dead.
To stem the blood flow, Vadi ordered the shut-down of the ranks and the routes and began negotiations with the two associations.
According to an existing operating licence Nanduwe is the rightful operator of at the five taxi ranks and the associated routes. Through the licence, Nanduwe has sole usage of the ranks over the peak hours between 5am and 8am while Wata is allowed use of the ranks after peak hours.
But Wata has in the past ignored the stipulations of the operating licence resulting in a flare up of violence between the two competing associations.
Nanduwe successfully sought a court order which interdicted Wata from using the rank during peak times but this is being appealed by Wata.
On Friday Vadi announced his intention to extend the suspension of the services operated by Wata and Nanduwe for further three months.
“I intend to extend the extraordinary measures instituted on 13 July, which was aimed at stabilising public transport services in Soweto, for a further three months as there is no agreement between the two associations aimed at the normalising the situation,” said Vadi.
But on Monday, both associations agreed to the conditions set by Vadi.
“I have received a signed declaration from both taxi associations, which has influenced my decision to lift the suspension notice so operations can be normalised starting from Tuesday,” he said.
Vadi stressed that should either or both parties fail to adhere to the declaration, the department will not hesitate to act in terms of the law which could see the ranks closed again.
Wata associate, Mandlenkosi Maphalala told eNCA that “all we wanted was to work and nothing else… We are happy to be back in business, now we will be able to feed our family and also be able to pay bonds”.
South African National Taxi Council spokesman Thabiso Molelekwa said the long-lasting success of the agreement would depend on how the National Transport Appeal Tribunal handles its adjudication of the dispute between the two associations.
“We are confident that the Tribunal decision will be fair and will benefit both parties involved, otherwise we will encounter more taxi violence,” said Molelekwa, adding that “Wata’s motivation must be really convincing if they want to operate on those routes same as Nanduwe.”
Both SAPS and JMPD said on Tuesday that the situation at all taxi ranks was being monitored closely. DM
Photo: A huge cooling tower for a power station in Soweto stands above the city on Thursday, 08 May 2003, after having been painted over months. Photo: KIM LUDBROOK (EPA)
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