Sunday and Monday saw the N1 being blocked by long distance taxi operators, causing havoc to traffic flow, in an attempt to alert the relevant authorities about their trouble with local assosciations.
Warring long-distance taxi operators blockaded the N1 South a kilometer from the Meropa-off-ramp late on Sunday morning as well as the R101 to Mokopane. This resulted in the month-end traffic queuing for kilometres and only returning to normal following Police and traffic officials being dispatched to the scene.
A source close to the taxi operators told Polokwane Observer that they were clashing about routes and commuters. According to the person the local long distance associations did not want the ones operating from the Gauteng, Musina, Thohoyandou and Makhado long distance taxi associations, who do have permits to operate in the area, to use the roads. They allegedly stopped them by illegally using a highway taxi patrol vehicle and asked for money, from R1 500 to R2 000 in some cases, before allowing them to continue.
This illegal practise forced the operators from the northern regions as well as Gauteng to form a pact and block the roads so as to get the attention of law enforcement agencies to come to their assistance. Tyres of taxis had allegedly been damaged by sharp objects strewn on the road to force them to stop.
The police called on operators to meet them at the Polokwane Traffic Control Centre for a meeting on Sunday, and a formal meeting was scheduled for Monday. This meeting did not materialise after passengers of the highway taxi patrol vehicle allegedly pelted other operators with stones, which resulted in violence and the burning of a highway taxi patrol vehicle.Taxi operators and associations engaged in the battle have been unwilling to talk to the media.
In another incident the N1 North between Botlokwa and the Solomondale off-ramp was blocked for more than six hours by taxi operators on Monday. Polokwane Police Head of Communication, Ntobeng Phala on Tuesday informed: “The roads were cleared by 15:00. Police have been patrolling the roads since.” He added that taxi operators used sharp objects such as nails and broken glass to damage the tyres of other taxis, causing a lot of damage to property. Police are still monitoring the situation and patrolling the highway.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS