Mthatha commuters enter the standoff between taxi operators and community safety MEC

07:19 (GMT+2) Thu, 24 May 2018

Taxi commuters in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape joined taxi operators and embarked on a peaceful protest on Wednesday, to demand the reopening of closed taxi ranks. 

Protesters gathered at Savoy Gardens in Mthatha and marched through the city to Munithatha building.

Earlier this year, Police Minister Bheki Cele shutdown the taxi routes such as R61 from Mthatha to Port St Johns and N2 between Mthatha and Tsolo, following the taxi violence which had claimed 60 lives since the outbreak in 2016.

Last month, Cele reopened two taxi ranks, Jubilee taxi rank for local and Chatam for long-distance taxis

Hundreds participated in the march facilitated by the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in Mthatha after complaints about the impact of the closures.

"Residents are the ones that were affected by the taxi violence but we were not consulted when the peace agreement was signed. We were not consulted when the taxi ranks were closed but that decision affects us," Sanco Mthatha secretary Daluxolo Myeki said.

"People are complaining to us about having to walk a long distance to Jubilee taxi rank, about a lot of money they pay to take meter taxis to the taxi rank, some are robbed." 

Businesses were closed down in fear of looting while others said they were in solidarity with their customers. 

The marchers accused Cele and member of the executive council (MEC) of transport Weziwe Tikana of not having the authority to close the taxi ranks. They also demanded the return of impounded taxis.

On Tuesday, Tikana held a media briefing to give an update on the efforts to root out taxi violence in the Mthatha region. 

She conceded that the closure of the taxi routes created a huge challenge for commuters who depend sorely on taxi industry. She said 69 people had been arrested, 51 of them from the two rival taxi associations.

A total number of 438 taxis were impounded since the start of the operation.

- African News Agency (ANA)