Lockdown keeps the peace in Mthatha taxi turf war

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.

The peace agreement intended to bring the turf war between rival taxi associations in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape appears to be holding. Police Minister Bheki Cele brokered the deal by closing taxi ranks and routes. A month after the signing of the deal, just two ranks have reopened.

Mthatha, South Africa

More than 60 people including passengers, drivers and taxi owners  in OR Tambo District Municipality have lost their lives. With a death toll this high, the conflict between Uncedo Taxi Association and Border Alliance Taxi Association is better called warfare than taxi violence.

Violence broke out between these two associations first in 2016 over control of the R61 and N2 routes and continues to pose a threat to community safety and disrupt public transport.

At the beginning of this year, a trail of blood and deaths of innocent people announced a resurgence of the war. A new strategy and plan had to be adopted as the previous attempts were proving to be futile.

The matter was then escalated to the national Minister of Police, Minister Bheki Cele,which resulted in an engagement chaired by the minister with representatives of the two organisations. Thereafter, Minister Cele declared the taxi ranks and routes closed until a firm commitment to peace and agreement to work together is reached between the warring organisations.

On Tuesday 22 May 2018, Transport, Safety and Liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana held a media briefing to report on progress since the signing of the peace agreement on 20 April.

“As you are now aware, two associations were involved in a protracted violent conflict which resulted in an unacceptably high number of deaths and injuries of people involved in the taxi industry and innocent commuters, including bystanders. This bloodbath and death toll of 60 lives was unprecedented in the OR Tambo District, and it affected the following towns: Mthatha, Tsolo, Libode, Maclear, Elliotdale and Port St Johns,” she said.

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Tikana outlined the key terms of the peace agreement:

  • All taxi ranks in Mthatha to remain closed with the exception of Jubilee and Chatam.
  • Jubilee taxi rank to operate local routes while Chatham will be used for long distance transport.
  • King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality to be responsible for the management of all ranks in Mthatha.
  • Taxi operators to return all operating licenses obtained illegally within 3 weeks.

69 suspected have been arrested to date.

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