Minister intervenes in Mthatha taxi violence

Scenes like these have become common in and around Mthatha. A taxi was set alight in Mngonyame village in March 2017. Photo by Nombulelo Damba- Hendrick/GroundUp.

Police minister, Bheki Cele has intervened in the taxi violence in Mthatha that has claimed more than 60 people’s lives since 2016 by suspending major routes indefinitely, until the terms of a peace accord brokered between the warring taxi associations are respected.

Mthatha, South Africa

Police Minister Bheki Cele together with the provincial leadership in the Eastern Cape led by the MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana and SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga had a lengthy meeting with the top executives of two rival taxi operators, Uncedo Services Taxi Association and Border Alliance Taxi Association.

Minister Cele has announced an indefinite closure of major taxi routes in Mthatha and surrounding areas which are affected by the ongoing conflict that since 2016,  has claimed the more than 60 people’s lives. The affected routes are the R61 to Maclear and the N2 junction to Tsolo.

Several interventions including the signing of a peace accord have been facilitated by the provincial government to settle disputes between the rival associations. All interventions to date have failed dismally – the police minister’s drastic measures are the latest attempt to exert the authority of the state.

“The selfishness of the taxi industry must be cut to zero. We cannot continue to count dead bodies like a taxi load. 60 people is a big number, the killings must be eradicated or else taxi operators will lose their business. The routes belong to the citizens of this country and not to be manipulated by taxi bosses for selfish financial gains,” said Cele

“This is not the first time that a decision of closing down the taxi routes is taken, but what is different this time is that unless there is absolute compliance to the peace accord, the routes will be closed indefinitely.

“After the signing of the ceasefire agreement 13 people have been killed and 17 cases of attempted murder have been registered; we are not a banana republic therefore business cannot continue as usual; in fact the taxi business can rather go down to its knees instead of masquerading as a funeral parlor,” he added.

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MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana and SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga, Police Minister Bheki Cele and OR Tambo mayor Nomakhosazana Meth. Photo supplied.

The discussions were exhausted without any of the parties taking responsibility for the ongoing violence besides admitting to the severity of the pain caused by the killings of both operators and innocent commuters.

Police claim that investigations are at an advanced stage to apprehend the masterminds behind taxi wars. A team of specialised forces has been deployed to strategic and volatile areas to maintain law and order and to further increase police visibility for the security of ordinary citizens.

Police driven operations have yielded results in the arrest of 48 people who are also positively linked to serious and violent crimes in other provinces.

In taking the decision to close down the taxi operations indefinitely, Minister Cele indicated a willingness to meet both taxi operators once they had simmered down, and to mediate discussions with the aim of finding a lasting solution in ending the taxi wars in the Eastern Cape.

 

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