Police Minister Bheki Cele has announced the immediate and indefinite closure of major taxi routes in Mthatha and surrounding areas due to ongoing conflicts which have resulted in the killing of more than 60 people since it erupted in 2016.
The affected routes are the R61 and the N2 junction to Maclear and Tsolo respectively.
Several interventions including the signing of the peace accord have been facilitated by the provincial government to bring peace to the rival associations.
All interventions to date have failed dismally hence the Police Minister has taken drastic measures in stamping the authority of the state.
“The selfishness of the taxi industry must be cut to zero, we cannot continue to count dead bodies like a taxi load. 60 people is a big number, the killings must be eradicated or else taxi operators will loose their business.
The routes belong to the citizens of this country and not to be manipulated by taxi bosses for selfish financial gains” said Cele
“This is not the first time that a decision of closing down the taxi routes is taken, but what is different this time is that unless there is absolute compliance to the peace accord, the routes will be closed indefinitely, so that the hand of government is felt in this area, even if they take us to court, we will defend the authority of the state”, Cele added.
“After the signing of the ceasefire agreement 13 people have been killed and 17 cases of attempted murder have been registered; we are not a banana republic therefore business cannot continue as usual; in fact the taxi business can rather go down to its knees instead of masquerading as a funeral parlor”, said Minister Cele.
The Minister together with the provincial leadership in the Eastern Cape led by the MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Ms Weziwe Tikana and SAPS Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga had a lengthy meeting with the top executive of the two rival taxi operators of Uncedo Services Taxi Association and Border Alliance Taxi Association.
The discussions were exhausted without any of the parties taking responsibility of the ongoing violence except expressing themselves in admitting to the severity of the pain of the ongoing killings which has claimed lives of both operators and innocent commuters.
Police investigations are at an advanced stage to apprehend the masterminds in the taxi wars. A team of specialised forces have been deployed to strategic and volatile areas to maintain law and order and to furthermore increase police visibility for the benefit of the safety of ordinary citizens.
Police driven operations have yielded results in arresting 48 people who are also positively linked to other serious and violent crimes in other provinces.
In taking the decision to close down the taxi operations indefinitely, Minister Cele indicated willingness to meet both taxi operators once they have sobered up; to engage on further discussions with the aim of finding a long lasting solution in ending the taxi wars in the Eastern Cape.