Death toll rises in ongoing taxi war

A group of workers from Khayelitsha who had been waiting for hours for transport to work, board a Golden Arrow bus in Site C.
Commuters wait for Golden Arrow buses at the Cape Town bus terminus.The delays in transport have been caused by taxi violence that has claimed close to 80 lives since January. Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and the provincial department of transport have been locked in meetings for days with the involved taxi organisations.

The ongoing taxi violence between the two rival taxi associations in the province has not only left commuters stranded but many families mourning the tragic death of their loved ones.

Premier Alan Winde said in a press conference last week that close to 80 people have been killed in taxi violence since January.

At the centre of the taxi war are the routes between Paarl and Bellville.

The Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (CODETA) have been engaged in violent clashes for the past two weeks, each one accusing the other of not being willing to accommodate the other.

In the latest flare-up of violence, more than 20 people have been killed or injured, among them taxi drivers, owners and commuters.

Last Monday, thousands of commuters were left stranded and panicking as Golden Arrows Bus services suspended some of their services amid attacks on their buses in Philippi and on the N2.

Cata alleges that more than 10 drivers and taxi owners belonging to their association had been killed. While Codeta claims that six of their drivers had been killed during this stand-off.

Both organisations have indicated that their taxis won’t operate until they reach an agreement and can guarantee the safety of their drivers and commuters.

Cata spokesperson Mandla Hermanus said there was no resolution yet between these two taxis association and as result they had instructed their drivers to stay at home until it was safe to be on the road again.

He said there had always been tension between the members of their organisation operating in Paarl and those belonging to Codeta.

Three years ago, he said a number of their drivers operating on that route had been shot, and five of their vehicles burnt. He claimed that Codeta members were responsible.

He said Cata taxis had been operating in that area for more than 30 years, while Codeta had only started running routes there three years ago.

“We are scared. That is why we have opted to stop our services. We had put suggestions (forward to reach) an amicable working relationship but Codeta shut them down.

“We have no intention of shooting buses because our people are using them while there is this impasse.

“I can safely say that our members are not behind the shooting or attacking of the buses but opportunist criminals have taken this opportunity to attack them,” he said.

Mr Hermanus said before the attack on the buses, text messages and voice notes had been circulating on various social media platforms suggesting that Cata members would attack buses.

But he vehemently denied that their members had anything to do with them.

Codeta spokeperson Andile Kanyi, however, denied that their association was making it difficult for the other association to operate on the Paarl routes.

He said as far as he knew, Cata had made it difficult for them to work together..

He denied that they had attacked any members of their rival association and said that while they had tried to work with Cata, they had refused to do so.

Mr Kanyi claimed that Codeta members were in the majority in the Paarl area, and added that they would also not operate until they were convinced it was safe to do so. He also assured commuters that buses would not be targeted.

Taxi commuter, Lunga Yaphi, said he feared for his safety and that the taxi war was impacting him financially because his employees had implemented a no work no pay policy.

Meanwhile Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell has condemned the recent attacks on bus and staff transport services, “allegedly by operatives linked to warring minibus taxi associations”.

The violence, he said, had affected other modes of public transport which have amended their operations due to safety and security concerns.

Mr Mitchell said he had already published his intention in terms of Section 91 of the Land Transport Act to consider the closure of routes and ranks should the situation continue.

By the time this story was published, there was still no resolution between these taxi associations.