Warring Soweto taxi associations called to order…again

A view of Baragwanath taxi rank and traders market on July 24, 2019 in Diepkloof, Soweto. (Photo: Gallo images/Fani Mahuntsi)

Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo has placed the Witwatersrand African Taxi Owners Association and Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association under administration.

Gauteng Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo has placed two Soweto taxi associations under administration after two people were killed in violent clashes. 

The department confirmed on Friday that the executive committees of the Witwatersrand African Taxi Owners Association (WATA) and Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association were dissolved after a flare-up of violence between the groupings. 

“Two [Nancefield association] squad members were shot dead near Nancefield Hostel, Soweto on Tuesday, 15 September 2020. The associations have been engaged in a scuffle over routes in the south of Johannesburg,” it said.

Roads and Transport Department spokesperson Melitah Madiba said the feuding associations would be placed under administration for about three months.

Last year, then MEC for roads and transport Ismail Vadi ordered the closure of six Soweto taxi ranks. This followed Vadi’s earlier warning that he would close down the ranks if the two associations failed to adhere to their own joint resolutions. The closure affected thousands of Soweto commuters that rely on taxis for transport. The violence abated during the closure but resumed soon after the routes were reopened. 

The country’s taxi industry is renowned for violent and often deadly clashes between rival associations over routes and encroachment. These clashes and the absence of law enforcement structures dedicated to taxi industry violence have come under the spotlight at the Commission of Inquiry into Taxi Violence. In the absence of enforcement structures, violence has thrived, the commission has heard.

In addition, taxi violence murders are not being pursued. According to retired SAPs Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo, who told the Commission that 500 taxi violence-related cases in Gauteng were not investigated.

So far, government intervention has failed to resolve the issue. In February 2020, the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance and the Department of Roads and Transport hosted their sixth summit around modernisation of the industry. In July 2019, another summit was held with taxi industry representatives in Sedibeng District Municipality. Other indabas and summits ended in signed commitments between associations, yielding little. 

This week, describing the authority which empowered the provincial department of roads and transport to close the ranks, the statement said:

“The North Gauteng High Court recently ratified an agreement between Gauteng’s major taxi structures, the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco-Gauteng), giving the MEC powers to dissolve taxi associations involved in acts of violence.”

Mamabolo said wherever they placed associations under administration, they have seen satisfactory results, but if the results were unsatisfactory, he would pursue the legal route.

Santaco-Gauteng chair Johannes Mkhonza said he was not aware that the two associations were to be placed under administration. He said as much as he frequently spoke to leaders of the two associations regarding solutions to the violence in the industry, they did not fall under Santaco.

“Vadi tried to intervene in the violence, but left it suspended. When Mamabolo came, he tried what he could and we thought the violence was over. It’s clear that the routes of the two associations overlap,” said Mkhonza.

To end the taxi violence, the associations should be amalgamated, which worked well in Randburg, he said, adding that the continued violence of great concern – as was the lack of arrests for the killings.

“I am deeply dismayed by the latest incident which resulted in the spillage of blood. We cannot allow the taxi industry to turn our province into the capital of murder and violent gangs,” said Mamabolo. DM


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