The Zamokuhle Taxi Association (Zamta) barricaded the main 4-way stop in Leslie on Monday, 7 January. Zamta and Vukta (Vukanini Taxi Association) are at loggerheads regarding the Leandra/Secunda route.
There is currently no taxi association that services the Leandra/Secunda route and the commuter have to rely on buses and/or private transport to travel between the two towns.
Taxis also barricaded the R29 within Leslie as well as the road from the N17 into Leandra.
The protest started very peacefully but tensions rose when the police arrived in numbers and were dressed in riot gear.
The secretary of Zamta, Mr AJ Mahlangu (AJ), told the Bulletin that they have permission to operate the Secunda/Leandra route and that Vukanini Taxi Association is refusing that Zamokuhle Taxi Association operates the route. The problem compounded when Zamta members loaded passengers in Secunda and the Vukta drivers assaulted those passengers. It is then alleged that the police refused to open cases of assault against those responsible. “Only after they had their lawyers involved did the police open assault cases,” said AJ.
The secretary of Zamta also said that they had a meeting on Saturday, 5 January, with Vukta. The Mayor, Cllr Thandi Nxgonono as well as MMC Cllr Dan Nhlapo represented Govan Mbeki Municipality. MMC Cllr Anthony Makhaye could not attend as he had the incorrect time for the meeting. Vukta was represented by their chairperson Mr Fanyana Sibanyoni, his Deputy Secretary and the rank manager.“Vukta refused to talk to our Chairperson” AJ said. “they want us to excuse our Chairperson! The members gave us that mandate. We have to go back to our members to report back.”
“The Executive Mayor then said we must compromise,” continued AJ “What must we compromise?”
Zamta had a meeting with the Secunda Cluster Commander on 29 November where they were promised a meeting with all the role players. “That never happened!” said AJ.
The members of Zamta said that the Secunda Police is favouring Vukta and did not intervene nor did they act when Vukta intimidated Zamta drivers and burned one of their taxis. “The police even escorted Vukta when they came to Leslie” said the members.
Zamta drivers proceeded to the N17 at the Leandra Toll Gate to barricade the N17. SAPS pushed some of the taxis out of the way to clear the road. A short while later Police tried to disperse the handful of drivers that were standing in the road and fired at them with rubber bullets. This resulted in the drivers hurling rocks at the police. Vukta drivers also came to the N17 offramps and confronted the Zamta members. SAPS had to intervene.
In Leandra the situation was also peaceful but the roads were still barricaded. POPS (Public Order Police) arrived and the tensions rose. The community started to gather and the taxis slowly moved away. The community tried to set two vehicles alight but the fires were swiftly extinguished.
The community did not throw any rocks and did not damage anything except taunting the police. The Colonel in charge decided to take action and dispersed the crowd with rubber bullets. Within a few seconds, there were no people to be seen.
Reports of stones being thrown later in the day surfaced but the Bulletin could not confirm the reports.
The taxi problem in Govan Mbeki Municipality is here to stay and needs to be resolved before anybody gets hurt or even worse… killed. The taxi violence is getting worse and as a community, we need to work together to ensure everyone’s safety.
– Encee van Huyssteen