Public transport in Cape Town and its surrounds has stabilised somewhat following two weeks of disruption due to ongoing conflict over routes between two rival taxi associations.
“The situation is now stabilised, law and order seem to have been achieved at this point,” Western Cape member of the executive council for community safety Albert Fritz said during a joint media briefing by the local government and the South African Police Service on Tuesday.
Starting from Monday, Western Cape head of transport Daylin Mitchell enforced Section 91(2) of the National Land Transport Act for two months in response to the violence in the industry, effectively closing Route B97 between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville.
The closure also affects two taxi ranks in Mbekweni, local route loading lanes at the Bellville public transport interchange (PTI), the long-distance facility at the Bellville PTI, the “Paint City” rank across from the Bellville PTI, as well as an informal rank in Bellville.
The conflict in the sector has left commuters with limited transport options, with other public operators suspending their services out of fear of possible attacks.
The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) in the Western Cape said it was disappointed at the closure of routes, which it said had resulted in many learners not being able to reach school at the start of a new term on Monday.
“We are aware that many learners did not go to school because of having fear of not knowing what might happen to them on the roads or not having transport at all as many are depending on minibus taxis and scholar transport and none of those were available in some townships of Cape Town,” Cosas said in a statement.
The Western Cape government’s Fritz appealed to the rival taxi associations to reach a lasting solution to the conflict.
“We want to call on the taxis to reach some form of agreement so that peace can be permanently in this province [and] in the city,” he said.
As of Tuesday morning, both Cata and Codeta withheld several minibus services on all their routes. Mzwandile Majangaza, the ring manager at the Paint City taxi rank in Bellville, told the Mail & Guardian that operators were “waiting on a solution”.
Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile told Tuesday’s media briefing that, since Monday, there had been no “incidents that could be linked to intimidation”.
But in the last two days, one suspect had been arrested for the illegal possession of a firearm while seven taxis were impounded for using the currently prohibited B97 route, Patekile added.
Additional public transport services have been initiated to help stranded commuters. These include additional Metrorail lanes, Metrorail buses and Golden Arrow buses operating in areas affected by the route closure.
“I want to reiterate that alternative transport will be made available in the affected areas until every stranded commuter is transported to and from work,” said Mitchell.