Taxi association deadlock impacts on school pupils
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Cape Town - The SA Scholar Transporters Association (Sasta), which transports thousands of pupils across the Western Cape, has suspended operations for this week, due to alleged threats of extortion by taxi drivers.
This, as no agreement has been reached between the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and Cape Taxi Amalgamated Association (Cata), despite informal engagements also introduced from Sunday, amid an arbitration process that started on Monday.
Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell closed the contested B97 minibus taxi (MBT) route, between Mbekweni and Bellville, and other affected routes, for two months – starting on Monday.
A high police presence, supported by the army, has since been visible.
Police Minister Bheki Cele also visited Nyanga, Site C in Khayelitsha, and Bellville, to oversee the operations.
Sasta provincial chairperson Simphiwe Bathembu said their concern was that taxi drivers were not having a source of income, which leads to harassment and extortion.
The association has 500 scholar drivers.
“We can attest that, in the past, scholar transports were extorted and this has escalated now.
“Drivers are intimidated and have to pay R1 500 if their vehicle has more than two passengers.
“The taxi industry is urging commuters to use alternative transport, but things on the ground are not that way.
“Scholar transport and other modes of transport are intimidated.
“Our drivers are given a small piece of paper they have to pay for and are told it's a permit to operate, but we receive permits from the government,” said Bathembu.
Bathembu said they will monitor the situation this week and decide at the weekend if they can operate from August 2.
“The problem is that the police, the army, and other law enforcement agencies, are visible at taxi ranks and at the affected roots.
“They are not patrolling the streets in our communities and that is where we have to fetch the pupils and drop them at school.
“Their safety and ours is not guaranteed – anything can happen because there has not been any agreement reached,” said Bathembu.
Western Cape Education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “Sadly (there are) some reports of schools that have lower than usual pupil attendance numbers due to the taxi violence and disruption, particularly in the city bowl and surrounds. One taxi association, that commutes pupils privately, also didn’t operate today due to the threats of violence, which affected attendance.”
Provincial Congress of South African Students (Cosas) said they take a strong stance in condemning the ongoing taxi violence, which saw some matrics not being able to attend their winter school classes during the mid-year school holidays.
“We call on the instigators of violence to refrain from doing so, as pupils cannot continue to lose out on school work, as they have lost much time already,” said Cosas.
Cata spokesperson Mandla Hermanus said no resolutions were made during Sunday night's meeting, but a smaller group was working to refine two or three proposals that may bring the parties closer to a solution.
Codeta spokesperson Andile Khanyi said they had hoped that the meeting would be successful and operations would be fully back to normal for both taxi associations.
He said, instead, their members came back reporting to have escaped a hail of bullets on the N2 highway.
“The meeting came out very late at night and we were updated about the proposals that might assist. However, we were shocked that our members were attacked by unknown people, just after joining the N2. Fortunately, no one was injured. It has been agreed that, moving forward, the meetings will be conducted virtually for safety reasons,” said Khanyi.
The meeting is to find an interim solution that can ensure the safe return of operations for affiliates not affected by closed ranks and routes.