The six-month ban imposed on taxi operators in Ladysmith in November was summarily lifted by the KZN Transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda today (Tuesday, 9 January). His decision comes in the wake of spreading violence in the greater Ladysmith area after buses were petrol bombed, shops looted and main roads barricaded by protestors yesterday.
Kaunda visited Ladysmith today in a walkabout chatting to commuters explaining the rationale behind his decision to ban taxis from operating in the area.
The six-month ban by Kaunda was an attempt to end violence between rival taxi associations in Ladysmith that were at loggerheads over routes. The decision to suspend taxi operations of Klipriver and Sizwe Taxi associations was taken following incidents of violence that had led to killings of taxi operators, their family members and relatives as well as innocent citizens.
Since the ban in November there was no negotiation between the Klipriver and Sizwe taxi associations on the matter.
The MEC’s decision negatively impacted on commuters and business in the area, and he once again came under heavy criticism from the Democratic Alliance.
The DA’s KZN spokesperson on health, Dr Imran Keeka said that MEC’s short-sighted and unilateral decision to ban taxis from entering Ladysmith not only affected business and services, but also affected residents in need of health care and could potentially cost lives.
“The DA has therefore written to the Premier Willies Mchunu and Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo requesting that they work together with their cabinet colleague transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda to urgently prioritise the healthcare needs of residents of the Alfred Duma Municipality in resolving this disaster of their own making,” said Keeka.
He said that barricaded roads hampered the movement of ambulances and staff to and from hospitals and clinics, resulting in some clinics shutting down operations for safety reasons.
Affected clinics included Nkuthu / Zaaifontein; Driefontein; Watersmeet; Matiwaneskop; KwaMteyi; all three clinics in eZakheni; St Chads CHC and clinics; and Steadville.
The MEC has confirmed that the sanctions in the local routes will be relaxed in the interests of the people who still remain with inadequate transport. This means that only local routes will be partially opened on condition that there is no resurfacing of violence in the area. If incidents of violence occur, the MEC has stated that he will once again close all taxi operations. All long distance routes operated by Klipriver and Sizwe Transport Taxi Associations will remain closed.
Police and traffic officers will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis. Engagements between the leadership of the taxi industry and other stakeholders will continue with the view of finding long lasting peace and stability.