Taxi ban looms for Delft after five years of violence
Western Cape transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela has declared his intention to ban all minibus taxi operations in Delft following years of fatal violence between rival operators.
He declared Delft a “high-risk area” for taxi violence this week, saying the situation has deteriorated to the point where the safety of passengers, operators and the public could no longer be guaranteed.
His decision follows five years of deadly conflict between the Delft/Cape Town Taxi Association (DTA) and the Seawater Taxi Association, which most recently led to the murder of a taxi operator on May 13 in a shooting incident that left five others seriously injured.
The public has until May 22 to submit written representations to the Western Cape department of transport and public works office in the Cape Town CBD, after which Madikizela said he could decide to institute several restrictions - including banning the two associations from operating and allowing other operators on their routes.
Asked whether he thought this could lead to a backlash and violence against outside operators who are brought in to operate the routes, Madikizela said he would not be stopped from taking action by fears of a backlash.
“This is a standard procedure when operators are refusing to co-operate. I can’t stop acting in the interests of the public - the continued violence is endangering their lives - just because I’m afraid of the backlash,” he said.
“The route will be closely monitored by law enforcement if I eventually take that decision.”
His intention to institute extraordinary measures in Delft was published in the government gazette on Monday.
If instituted, the department could shut down 11 taxi ranks in Delft operated by the two associations and 11 routes between the ranks and the Cape Town CBD, as well as routes to and from several suburbs along the way.
Madikizela said there were fears that the violence would spread into other suburbs where the associations and their affiliates operate and that there were already reports of altercations at the Cape Town Station Deck taxi rank and unconfirmed reports of planned retaliatory attacks for last week’s shooting incident.
The government gazette detailed the conflict’s origins, dating it back to 2006 when the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) affiliated Seawater Taxi Association was issued with an operating licence to operate from the Suburban Bliss taxi rank in Southern Delft.
Delft was established as one of the apartheid system’s only mixed-race suburbs in 1989 and has since then become one of Cape Town’s fastest-growing residential areas, with several formal housing developments being built there.
The taxi industry responded to the rapid increase in demand, resulting in “fierce competition” over passengers, which resulted in route invasions and violent conflict.
Over the past five years, the conflict over routes has escalated - such as the one between Delft and the Epping industrial area, and the route to the middle-class suburb of Claremont, on the eastern foothills of Table Mountain.
According to Madikizela, the conflict was exacerbated by the introduction of the unregistered Delft Unity Taxi Association.
He said the issuance of operating licences for Seawater to operate from the Suburban Bliss rank in Delft followed the relocation of residents from Langa and Nyanga in the larger Khayelitsha township, which borders Deflt to the south, separated only by the N2 highway.
However, the DTA already held licenses to operate the route between Delft and Cape Town from the Mango Street taxi rank in Delft South.
“These two organisations were expected to coexist and respect the operating rights. This unfortunately did not happen,” he said.
Another layer was added to the conflict when both associations agreed to jointly operate from the same lane at the Cape Town Station Deck as well as at the Suburban Bliss taxi rank in Delft.
“Both organisations actively recruited illegal operators to gain ascendency. This resulted in aggressive touting and solicitation for passengers, as well as a reduction in profitability and vehicle standards,” he said.
The office of the registrar received various reports of violations of codes of conduct and a general disregard for the rule of law by members of both associations.
Following these complaints, an official enquiry was launched. Based on its findings, a peace agreement was reached - but it was soon broken.
The city of Cape Town tried to intervene by giving the associations separate lanes at opposite ends of the newly redeveloped Cape Town Station Deck, but its efforts were for naught, with the conflict continuing at the Suburban Bliss rank in Delft South.
Included among the arsenal of actions Madikizela said he intended to take at his discretion were the following:
- suspending all operating licenses of permits authorising minibus taxi services in the declared area for the relevant period;
- instructing that no person may take minibus taxis on the closed routes or from the closed ranks;
- closing the lanes at the Cape Town Station Deck, which were allocated to DTA and Seawater; and
- allowing other operators who do not hold licenses to operate the routes to provide services until the situation stabilised.
“These actions will be implemented in phases, at my judgment, after consultation with other government departments and affected stakeholders,” he said.