South Africa

ROUTE OF THE PROBLEM

Two killed as taxi violence resurges in Ekurhuleni, with strike action hobbling commuter services

Two killed as taxi violence resurges in Ekurhuleni, with strike action hobbling commuter services
Four people have been arrested in connection with taxi violence in Ekurhuleni, while police are investigating the death of two taxi association members in another incident. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Gauteng commuters were left in the lurch amid a surprise protest strike by the taxi industry, which is demanding a share of a new bus service along its routes. Now, police are investigating after two people were shot dead in the strike.

The South African Police Services (SAPS) are looking for suspects after two people were shot dead in Germiston on Thursday, 7 March 2024, during a resurgence of taxi-related violence in Gauteng. 

“The motive for the killing cannot be confirmed at this stage, although it is suspected to be related to taxi violence. Both deceased are said to be members of the local taxi association,” police said. 

Gauteng SAPS spokesperson Colonel Mavela Masondo has confirmed police are investigating. 

The killings come against the backdrop of violence as the taxi industry went on strike in Ekurhuleni on Thursday, sparked by a dispute with a bus company which was awarded a contract to operate in the area. 

Gauteng Transport MEC Kedibone Diale announced on Friday that taxis would be available on Saturday, after initial talks with the taxi industry ended in deadlock.

The taxi industry demanded a 30% stake in the bus contract along those routes it claims to have opened and “nurtured” for many years. 

“The development of these routes was done by the taxi industry and therefore it should be given at least 30% of the contract to compensate for the development and the losses it will incur in the process,” the National Taxi Association (TNA) said on Thursday. 

SAPS arrested four people in the wake of the violence, and they were due to appear in court on Friday. 

The arrests relate to an incident in which the suspects were allegedly abusive towards a commuter who chose alternative transport. A case was later opened by the complainant. 

Many commuters were taken by surprise when taxi operators decided to strike on Thursday. But, by the end of Thursday many were aware that they would need to make alternative travel plans for Friday.

“I was shocked when I arrived at the Germiston taxi rank, and there was not a single taxi. I had no idea that the taxi sector was striking. If there is one industry which knows how to spoil the party, it’s the taxi industry,” Mlungisi Hlatshwayo (37), of Vosloorus, said. 

“The government’s romance with the taxi industry needs to urgently come to an end. The taxi industry goes on a random strike, commuters bear the brunt, and the government has no problem each time. Enforce the law and arrest those who want a stake in a contract in which they are not a part. How is this different from extortion?” Masego Tshabalala, of Chris Hani, said. 

Some commuters, however, believe that the taxi industry’s demand for a 30% stake in the contracts is fair. 

“It’s only fair to them that when new players arrive in the space in which they [the taxi industry] are natural custodians, they are appreciated somehow, especially if their concern is that the market has saturated,” commuter Nduduzo Zwane said. 

The TNA said it noted that “the bus contracts issued in Ekurhuleni do not reflect the entire taxi industry’s stance on the aspect of it being accorded a stake in the issuance of a contract along routes it operates and have nurtured all the years”. 

“Should the authorities remain incalcitrant in the matter, the industry will be left with no option other than to escalate the current shutdown in Ekurhuleni to national proportions thus crippling the mobility of the masses as a consequence,” it said. 

Deadlocked

Gauteng Transport MEC Kedibone Diale met with representatives of the taxi industry on Thursday, but afterwards warned commuters that they would have to find alternative transport on Friday as the talks were deadlocked. 

Diale said the provincial department could not reach agreement with the industry on one of its demands in order to call off the strike. The taxi industry was demanding that the four people who were arrested be released immediately, she said. 

“We will not be bullied by the taxi industry,” Diale said. 

After more talks with the taxi industry on Friday, Diale said taxis would be available on Saturday. 

Diale said her department had established teams to guide structures in training, among other things.

“And also dispute resolution mechanism training to all associations in Gauteng,” Diale said.

Authorities have failed to progressively deal with the scourge of taxi violence in the country – doing nothing until the next reportable incident. The killings, however, have not stopped and no perpetrators are behind bars.

In 2020, the Shongwe Commission of Inquiry into Taxi Violence pinpointed the lack of an effective resolution mechanism as one of the causes of ongoing taxi violence. 

The commission heard that hundreds of taxi-related killings remained unresolved. 

Just last month, about a dozen people died in taxi violence in Cape Town where a war over routes and operating licences has been going on for years. 

gauteng Jacob Mamabolo taxi violence

Former Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo failed to deal with taxi violence once and for all, before vacating the post. (Photo: Luba Lesolle / Gallo Images)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town taxi violence resurgence leaves 12 dead, many critically injured in early 2024

Successive Gauteng transport MECs have failed to deal effectively with taxi violence. For example, while former MEC Ismail Vadi’s strategy to close affected ranks when violence flared resulted in a temporary ceasefire, it never lasted and in some instances the strategy only exacerbated the violence.

Former MEC Jacob Mamabolo, who had a fairly good relationship with the taxi industry, managed to temporarily stabilise the industry, but he vacated the post having failed to end taxi violence. DM

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