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Transport MEC implicated in looming taxi war

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A group of disgruntled taxi drivers and owners affiliated to Mankweng Taxi Association are pointing the finger at Transport, Safety, Security and Liaison MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana for allegedly causing division in their ranks.
The aggrieved members said they were prevented by other members of the Association from operating on the Mankweng route following their refusal to affiliate with the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) last year.
South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) affiliated members said they called for Mokaba-Phukwana‘s intervention but their efforts were futile.
“The NTA members within the association prohibited us from operating in the area, saying only members affiliated to the alliance are eligible to do so. They even hired people to impound our vehicles on the Mankweng route because we did not side with them on the NTA membership issue. We cannot withdraw our Santaco membership because of them. The MEC must be removed from the department, because she clearly does not understand the taxi business,” a complainant said.
Other members said they fear for their lives because they are allegedly always threatened with guns by the members affiliated to NTA.
“This issue has been going on for almost two years now. We are not working. Our vehicles are parked at the garages because of the fights. We are unable to provide for our families because of the MEC who is biased and who does not want to listen to us. The most painful thing is that she is the only person who can come to our rescue but she does not want to. We have tried several times to meet with her on the matter but her door is always closed,” the complainant said.
Having failed to secure a meeting with the MEC since March last year, members finally approached Legislature Member and DA Provincial Spokesperson on Transport, Suzan Phala for help.
Following discussions with the complainants on Monday she undertook to write to Premier Stan Mathabatha, urging him to intervene and openly declare his commitment to try to avert a potential taxi war between the factions within the Mankweng Taxi Association.
“The MEC has failed dismally to resolve the long-standing problems in the taxi business. Since taking over as MEC, she has turned a blind eye on resolving the taxi industry problems in the Mankweng area,” Phala said.
“The DA has seen court papers reflecting the existence of two factions in one taxi operating area. Taxi violence adversely affects commuters, leaves scores of residents frustrated and adversely impacts economic productivity. We cannot afford this simmering war to rear its ugly head. One of this department’s primary responsibilities is to ensure public safety.
“The DA urges the Premier to act swiftly, before Limpopo witnesses an ugly taxi war,” Phala said.
The complainants explained their objection to joining the NTA as being the fact that Santaco is recognised by Government and the NTA not.
Departmental Spokesperson Kagiso Mootane said affiliation to either Santaco or NTA is an operator’s choice and added that the MEC is committed to engage all operators to find a lasting solution.

Story: Herbert Rachuene
>>herbert@mailbox.co.za