Taxi services in the greater Ladysmith area have been suspended. This follows hard on the heels of escalating taxi violence in the area which prompted the decision announced today (Wednesday, 6 December) by Mxolisi Kaunda, the transport, community safety and liaison MEC.
In his announcement at the Ladysmith Council Chamber, Town Hall, Kaunda said that both the Klipriver and Sizwe taxi associations would immediately cease operations for the next six months.
He said that the decision was not an easy one to reach as it impacted negatively on commuters who rely daily on taxis to travel to work, school and to other places like clinics. The MEC said that as a caring government, they could not fold their arms while people were being killed.
“We have thus taken the decision to suspend all taxi operations of the Klipriver and Sizwe associations in Ladysmith for six months. This means that both associations will not operate effective from 7 December,” said Kaunda at the media briefing.
He said that both associations would need to find a lasting solution to the continued conflict, and he was optimistic that it could achieved. “Because we value the lives of our people, we would rather spare them from the daily hazards of using minibus taxis in Ladysmith. My doors remain open to them and I will stand ready to assist them find one another before the end of the six-month period.”
Kaunda stressed that several meetings were held, but the violence continued. He said that he was in the middle of talks when he was alerted to the brutal killing of the deputy chairperson of the Klipriver Taxi Assication, Mzikayifani Ngobese, where his daughter was also killed along with his bodyguards at Matiwane’s Kop last month.
The incident occurred three days after the MEC convened a meeting with the two associations, in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the taxi conflict. “To use this incident, it demonstrated the extent to which members of these two associations undermine the authority of the state and thereby act as if they are not governed by the laws of this country,” said Kaunda.
He made it clear that he was left with limited options except to invoke Section 91 of the National Land Transport Act. The Act empowers the MEC to implement extraordinary measures to “normalise” transport services in the area, if there is unrest, violence, conflict and instability.
Alternative transport arrangements have been made by the Department of Transport and the MEC assured that they were doing everything they could to ensure that commuters were not left without transportation.
On Sunday, 3 December, a high level meeting with the command structure of the South African Police Service, the Road traffic Inspectorate and Public Transport Enforcement Service and the Alfred Duma Traffic was held. “We have developed a plan to secure the buses and private vehicles in the area. They are safe and can continue to operate. I would like to appeal to all parties involved in this conflict to immediately embark on a constructive engagement process. Violence is in no one’s interest,” said Kaunda.