Mitchell, Mbalula fail to ’silence guns’

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jul 23, 2021

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Cape Town - Transport officials including MEC Daylin Mitchell and Minister Fikile Mbalula have lost control of the taxi industry impasse which continues to wreak havoc in the province with no end in sight for stranded commuters.

That’s how community activists have reacted following news that Mitchell and Mbalula’s efforts failed in “silencing the guns” in the Western Cape.

MEC for Transport Daylin Mitchell said he would review public submissions on whether to shut volatile routes and ranks, after public comments closed on July 16.

The violence has seen 83 murders and 56 attempted murders in the Western Cape since the start of the year. This week it escalated to the targeting of Golden Arrow bus drivers with one of them recovering in hospital after being shot in the face.

Taxis are not operating in most communities across the province. Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) , which was forced to operate at 50% capacity, has increased to 80% by Thursday afternoon.

Kraaifontein Community Policing Forum co-ordinator John Smidt said: “People have been walking from here to Bellville and Brackenfell every day. Schools are opening next week. We are frustrated and really angry. This cannot continue, people’s lives and jobs are at risk. Both provincial and national (government) have failed people. It seems like they don’t even know what they are doing. They always respond late and keep on saying they will not be held to ransom, however nothing is happening. They are certainly not in charge.”

The United National Transport Union (Untu), whose member, a protection officer of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was killed in crossfire last week, appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Bheki Cele to explain why there was an absence of adequate law enforcement in the transport sector, specifically in the rail, trucks, and taxi environments.

Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said the Central Line being completely destroyed added to the current public transport crisis.

“The government needs to understand there is nothing they can achieve on their own. They missed the opportunity to have all affected bodies including commuter representative bodies in these engagements and negotiations. As community structures we can attest that the taxi industry does listen to us because we use their taxis. Both national and provincial felt it okay to only rely on legal technicalities on matters that also affect us.”

Good Party secretary-general Brett Herron said the fact that authorities were appealing for additional military assistance was an admission that they have lost control.

“More importantly it is clear that they have lost the confidence and respect of the taxi leadership if they are unable to reach an agreement.”

Herron said political leadership in the province and City have failed the citizens by treating transport as “only deserving of attention when there was a crisis”.

Mbalula said they were affording Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) a further opportunity to find each other and agree on how to resolve the conflict over control of the B97 route between Paarl and Mbekweni.

“I may sound and seem defeated but I’m not. The government is intervening decisively. We just need to implement our plans,” Mbalula said speaking at a media briefing in Parliament yesterday where he was joined by Mitchell.

“In taking forward the commitment of the industry to find a sustainable solution to matters of unity and leadership in the industry, I have appointed a panel of eminent persons to assist the government in addressing the pervasive challenge of unity and leadership in the taxi industry.”

Mbalula said they were in talks with Metrorail to get more trains running and Golden Arrow for additional buses deployed in the affected routes.

“Talks are also at an advanced stage with the defence minister and the police minister for additional personnel because of the dire need to protect civilians and bring about order. But the parties have agreed to a ceasefire and will hold them accountable to their word,” he said.

Mitchell said he would review public submissions on whether to shut volatile routes and ranks, after public comments closed on July 16.

“We have tried in good faith for a number of weeks to find a solution to bring an end to the ongoing taxi violence we are experiencing in and around Cape Town. My department and I have been working tirelessly to restore dignity and safety to the public transport system. In working toward this objective, the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works engaged in a process to uncover the root causes behind the violent conflict while working with all stakeholders to achieve a lasting peace and stability in the minibus taxi industry.”

Cape Times

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