On 23 July, Western Cape Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell announced the closure of the contentious B97 taxi route between Bellville and Paarl for two months. The route has been at the heart of disputes between the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) which have seen taxi violence and shootings spill over into various Cape Town communities since the start of July.
This has resulted in commuters being caught in the crossfire, including a five-month-old baby who was wounded during a shooting in Khayelitsha last Thursday, according to Eyewitness News. Consequently, commuters have been forced to make alternative transport arrangements due to reduced taxi operation and diminished bus and train services.
Negotiations between Cata and Codeta have been ongoing since last Friday, where Mitchell and transport minister Fikile Mbalula led a mediation session between the associations and the Western Cape office of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco).
Despite ongoing mediation by the government’s transport authorities, there has been a stalemate in discussions, as announced by Mbalula and Mitchell on Thursday during a media briefing.
“Route 97 is currently the main cause of conflict between Cata and Codeta, who both claim to have the right to operate on the route,” said Mitchell, adding, “despite ongoing attempts to assist the two associations to find a lasting solution, they have yet to do so.” The closure of the route effectively means:
Mitchell said he consulted with Western Cape premier Alan Winde, Mbalula and the South African Police Service before making the decision, which was believed to “be the correct course of action”.
Mitchell also said Winde and Mbalula had requested additional support from the South African National Defence Force, which will assist police in scaling up their presence in hotspot areas. “As a result of these efforts, we have seen no further incidents of taxi-related violence, and Golden Arrow Bus Services are, as of this morning, operating 95% of its more than 1,000-strong fleet,” said Mitchell.
In response, Cata’s spokesperson Mandla Hermanus told Daily Maverick:
“As Cata, we are disappointed that it has come to a point where a route has to be closed by the government because of this impact. It means we as the taxi industry have failed the people who rely on our services for their daily commute. We are committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the impasse. We are continuing to engage each other with the hope of reaching a compromise that will allow us to resume with the operations”.
Codeta’s Andile Khanyi told Daily Maverick the association believed government authorities “jumped” to close the rank “without a solution”. Khanyi said at the end of the day “the people will suffer” if the route and rank are closed. Codeta welcomed that there still was space for negotiations as “at the end of the day, we don’t want to see people die like flies”.
Meanwhile, the provincial Transport and Public Works Department will continue to offer a venue and independent mediators to assist Cata and Codeta in “finding a resolution, and we join fellow citizens in urging these associations to put the best interests of our communities first,” said Mitchell. DM
"All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies." ~ John Arbuthnot
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