Mthatha at a standstill as taxi war rages

13 April 2018 - 15:02 By Philani Nombembe
File photo of taxis.
File photo of taxis.
Image: Simon Mathebula

Mthatha residents woke up to plumes of smoke in the CBD on Friday as an impasse between taxi owners and the police escalated.

Pictures of burning heaps of refuse on the tarmac circulated on social media.

Police Minister Bheki Cele shut down taxi routes around the town last month because of taxi violence that has claimed 60 lives since 2016.

Cele warned that the routes would be closed indefinitely unless there was compliance by taxi operators with a peace accord between the two rival taxi bodies — Uncedo Taxi Association and Border Alliance Association.

Eastern Cape MEC for transport and safety Weziwe Tikana reopened some of the routes‚ between Mthatha and Port St Johns‚ Tsolo and Maclear‚ ahead of the Easter holiday to allow the transportation of school children. But this was not enough for the taxi owners‚ who brought the CBD to a standstill on Friday. Sonwabo Mampoza‚ spokesman for King Sabatha Dalindyebo Municipality‚ condemned the protest and said it discouraged potential investors.

“This is denting Mthatha’s image‚” said Mampoza. “It scares investors who want to come and invest in this municipality. However‚ we are handling this together with law enforcement agencies.

“The entire council and the executive mayor‚ Dumani Zozo‚ are saddened by this situation. We are speedily trying resolve the impasse so calm can be restored. We cannot allow lawlessness.”

Mampoza said no infrastructure had been damaged and the fires had been contained. He said the N2 and other entrances to the town had been barricaded but “the situation is under control”.

It scares investors who want to come and invest in this municipality.

Eastern Cape acting police commissioner Major-General Andre Swart also condemned the disruptions. He warned the public to “be aware of these disruptions that are currently taking place and caution road users who are passing Mthatha to consider using alternative routes”.

Swart added: “We robustly condemn these acts of criminality and assure the community of our unwavering commitment in ensuring their safety. The protection of our citizens and their property is of utmost importance and we will undertake this task with vehemence. Our mandate also extends to protecting our law enforcement officials as well as the property of the state.”