Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Monday that the taxi route between Bellville and Paarl in the Western Cape will be reopened after successful engagements took place between warring associations in Cape Town who were at the heart of rampant violence that crippled the city’s public transport industry last month.
However, Mbalula stressed that the coveted B97 route will only remain open as long as the two taxi associations, who have engaged in a fierce dispute over the route’s ownership over the last decade, agree to a ceasefire and abide by the law.
Mbalula reopens controversial taxi route
In a statement released on Monday afternoon, Mbalula said that the on-going violence on route B97 – which has resulted in fatalities and destruction of property – has been the subject of intense resolution talks.
“We have continued to engage both CATA and CODETA, as well as the Provincial leadership of SANTACO to find a sustainable long-term solution,” he said, adding that the parties have since agreed to arbitration, which is now underway. “However, the conversations with the Associations have continued,” he said.
Western Cape provincial government invoked extraordinary measures to enforce the closure of route B97 between Mbekweni in Paarl to Bellville as well as the closure of lanes at the Bellville Interchange which impact on the B97. Mbalula said that the inconvenience this caused to thousands of commuters hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“We appreciate that this closure is not only an inconvenience to those who rely on this mode of transport, but also to operators who are not making any income as a result,” he said.
“However, preserving human life is an overriding imperative that supersedes all else. It is our intention to return taxi operations to normality at the shortest possible space of time, with a proviso that the Associations that are party to this violence take responsibility for ensuring responsible conduct on the part of their members.”
Strict instructions handed to operators
Mbalula said that National Government has concluded that the route can be reopened once again as long as operators comply with a host of instructions. These instructions are as follows:
- All legal operating licence holders for routes to and from Mbekweni, except for route B97, must commence the services as authorised by their operating licences or face the legal consequences;
- All Associations must instruct their members to return to service in line with the authorities issued with their operating licenses and must do so in a manner that is safe for the public. The Registrar’s Office will send out a letter to all associations communicating this instruction. All routes will be monitored and action will be taken against associations and individual operating licence holders who are in breach of this instruction.
- Authorities issued with their operating licenses and must do so in a manner that is safe for the public. The Registrar’s Office will send out a letter to all associations communicating this instruction. All routes will be monitored and action will be taken against associations and individual operating licence holders who are in breach of this instruction.
- Affected municipalities will be requested to place a moratorium on the issuance of new operating licences and applications for additional authorities on all affected routes whilst also rationalising these services;
- If the affected municipalities indicate the need for additional services on route B97, operating licences will be apportioned in accordance with the arbitration award;
- The Department will meet with the appointed arbitrator to expedite the arbitration process and to issue an award within the shortest possible timeframe.
- The Registrar’s Office will continue with the section 7(A)(20) inquiry to deal with the possible violations of the Code of Conduct and Standard Constitution and to deal with the issue of floor crossing, as well as to determine if the affected associations are still properly constituted in terms of applicable legal prescripts. The Registrar’s Office will make recommendations to the PRE in respect of actions against affected operating licence holders;
- Should there be further acts of violence, all affected routes operated by the two associations will be closed for all minibus-taxi operations for a period determined by the MEC and affected operating licences will be suspended. In addition, both associations will be suspended or deregistered by following the prescribed process. This will be done in the interest of public safety and other operators will be authorised to provide replacement services;
- Any other associations found to be involved in or promoting violence will similarly be suspended or deregistered by following the prescribed processes;
- Any association that henceforth affiliates to a region or so-called ‘mother body outside of its geographical area will be suspended by the Registrar’s Office;
- Government will request the SAPS to open an inquiry in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to investigate the on-going violence and to prioritise reported cases;
- Law enforcement capacity and deployment will be reviewed and strengthened In the affected areas to ensure enforcement of all laws without fear or favour.