Africa-Press – South-Africa. CAPE TOWN – The B97 minibus taxi route between Mbekweni in Paarl and Bellville will be closed for a further three months, MEC of transport and public works, Daylin Mitchell announced on Thursday.
The extension is effective Friday, November 26.
Mitchell said the decision comes after concerted efforts to stop violence between operators affiliated to the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (CODETA) failed.
“Due to incessant incidents of violence, damage to property and a loss of lives post 2017, emanating from route-related conflict on route B97, I published a notice in terms of section 91 of the National Land Transport Act (Act no.5 of 2009)(“NLTA”) setting out proposed actions to stabilise the situation. The proposed actions were set out under Notice 416 of 2021 in Government Gazette 44836, dated 9 July 2021.
“These actions included, inter-alia, the closure of route B97, the suspension of affected operating licences, the closure of all ranks in the Mbekweni area and the closure of certain loading lanes at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange,” Mitchell said.
He said he final notice confirming these extraordinary measures was published under Provincial Notice 77/2021 and Provincial Gazette 8467 dated July 23, 2021, and amended by Provincial Notices 82/2021in Provincial Gazette 8475 dated August 6, 2021 and 111/2021 in Provincial Gazette 8496 dated September 23, 2021.
Notice 77/2021, read with Notice 82/2021, stated that the extraordinary measures would be in place for a period of two months.
This was later amended in Notice 111/2021 to refer to a four-month period. The period in respect of which the extraordinary measures apply expires today, November 25, 2021.
Mitchell said these decisions were taken after a series of efforts by regulatory stakeholders to resolve the impasse between the affected parties had not been successful.
“The violence had continued unabated and more lives had been lost. These interventions included, inter-alia, several mediation efforts, peace conferences, a pre-arbitration agreement in which both agreed to refer the matter to arbitration and to abide by the outcome thereof and a ceasefire agreement.
“Regrettably, shots were also fired at law enforcement officers during violent protest action. Protestors demanded that the route be opened for taxi operations. The parties have rejected the option of signing a “bridging agreement” so that the route can be reopened,” he said.
Mitchell said on November 23, 2021, a notice was published in terms of sections 91(1) and 91(3) of the NLTA indicating an intention to close the B97 route for a period of three months with the option of extending the closure for a further period. Interested and affected persons were allowed a period of 24 hours to make representations regarding the proposed actions. One representation was received within the prescribed comment period.
The local Paarl Alliance Taxi Association (PATA), which is affiliated to CODETA, and CATA Boland both claim rights to run the B97 route.
“My Department has put a significant amount of time, money and effort over an extended period into trying to resolve the conflict with the participation of CATA, CODETA, South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) Western Cape, the City of Cape Town, Drakenstein Municipality, and the SAPS, but an agreement could not be reached on the route outside of the arbitration process.
“It should be noted that the Arbitration Award was only issued after the notice of intention was published. My Department and I are currently in the process of studying the award.
“It is misleading to suggest that there has been no violence or murders in the Paarl area. It is common cause that the violence between the affected primary associations and the mother bodies to which these primary associations are affiliated has extended to other areas,” Mitchell stated.
During September and October 2021, 19 taxi-related murders and nine attempted murders were reported.
During October 2021, law enforcement officers were attacked by minibus taxi operators in the Paarl area who demanded that route B97 be opened. Golden Arrow Bus Services has also reported several incidents of intimidation on the route.
During the arbitration process, the option of reaching a “bridging agreement” was proposed but consensus could not be reached.
Mitchell said while it is accepted that commuters will now have to fork out more money to get to work and that the livelihoods of operators have been impacted by the closure, the preservation of life had to be the most important consideration.
He said the affected/suspended operating licences also authorise minibus-taxi type services on other routes and the holders may continue to provide these services.
He said that 20 taxis had been repossessed and six operating licences have been affected by the closure.
“We have already agreed that the Department will engage Golden Arrow Bus Services to discuss a possible reduction in fares.
“In terms of the Transport Contingency Plan that was drawn up at the start of the closure period, additional Golden Arrow bus trips will remain in operation between Bellville and Paarl,” Mitchell concluded.
CATA Secretary, Mandla Hermanus said the association welcomed the extended closure of the B97 route.
He said it will be impossible to reopen the route when the arbitration process has not been finalised as it would only lead to renewed tensions between the motherbodies – CATA and CODETA.
“We hope that this will be the last extension as the arbitration is at its final stage. We urge law enforcement to ensure that the closure does not affect other operations such as long distance travelling to the Eastern Cape, as we approach the holiday season,” Hermanus added.