'Talks to subsidise taxis at advanced stage'
The Gauteng government is at an advanced stage of talks to subsidise taxis and integrate them into the public transport system. Premier David Makhura revealed this to residents in Mamelodi, Pretoria, yesterday.Commuters in Mamelodi have been stranded since Wednesday when taxi drivers attacked Autopax buses for taking over the routes vacated by Putco bus services.Autopax was granted a three-month licence to operate in Pretoria and on the East Rand. It has faced violent opposition from taxi associations, which insist they have enough taxis to meet the demand.On Friday, four City to City buses were pelted with stones by protesting taxi drivers who barricaded the Mamelodi depot. In another incident four commuters were wounded when a Putco bus was shot at. The driver is in a critical condition.The government has rolled out Operation Fiela to quell the violence. The SA Police Services, metro police and the SA National Defence Force have been deployed.Makhura said while they were listening to taxi associations' demands, the government would not negotiate with people "who are holding us to ransom"."We have met with taxi associations. We are putting plans to figure out how to subsidise them. They know how far we are in the process. But there are issues that associations must improve. Their taxis must be roadworthy, their drivers professional, and they must be willing to be on time."Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi said it would be impossible for taxis to replace buses."We must find a suitable bus company to take over the routes."Talks continue today. Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa called on taxi owners and commuters to cooperate as "violence will not resolve anything".Gauteng Taxi Alliance general secretary Alpheus Mlalazi said they would not back down."They [government] want us to die a natural death. We are mobilising for mass action. Government must guarantee us that when Autopax's three-month contract expires we will take over," he said.