Scholar transport drivers on edge as effects of taxi war drags on
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Cape Town - Scholar transport drivers are fearing for their lives as they return to transporting learners to and from schools and the taxi war drags on in the Western Cape.
Southern African Bus Operators Council provincial chairperson Nazeem Dollie said the first day of school went well, with no reported intimidation or violence by the taxi operators, despite having fears.
Dollie said he was glad that the taxi operators realised that they were not just carrying passengers, but children who could also be theirs or family members’.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said there were sadly some reports of schools that have lower than usual learner attendance numbers due to the taxi violence and disruption, particularly in the City Bowl and surrounds.
Hammond said those “commuter schools” generally have a high enrolment of learners from areas on the outskirts of the city centre, with learners travelling on public transport.
She said one taxi association that transports learners privately also didn’t operate yesterday, due to the threats of violence, which affected attendance.
"We are, however, thankful that no reported incidents of violence affecting learners have been reported," she said.
Congress of SA Students acting provincial chairperson Zandile Matyeni said the ongoing taxi violence saw matric pupils not being able to attend their winter school classes during the mid-year school holidays and was now affecting many learners from the townships who have failed to attend class on the first day of the reopening of schools.
Matyeni said they were aware that many learners did not go to school yesterday, because of having fear of not knowing what might happen to them on the roads or not having transport at all, as many were depending on minibus taxis and scholar transport and none of those were available in some townships.
The ongoing minibus taxi violence has left several minibus taxi ranks closed for two months, in an effort to bring stability and peace between rival taxi associations, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta).
Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said the action became necessary after concerted efforts to stop the violence between operators on the B97 route affiliated to Cata and Codeta failed.
Mitchell said arbitration of the dispute resumed yesterday. However, certain ranks have also been closed.
He said in addition, certain loading lanes at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange (PTI) used by Cata and Codeta-affiliated taxis have also been closed. The loading lanes at the Bellville PTI that serve taxis not affiliated to Cata or Codeta remain open.
He said the City had issued access tokens to associations and operators not affected by the conflict so that they could continue to enter the Bellville PTI taxi rank and use their allocated loading lanes.
"Additional Golden Arrow bus services have been made available between Paarl and Bellville," said Mitchell.
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said intelligence operatives have been hard at work trying to deal with the threat at hand. She said SANDF members were deployed in high risk areas to augment police deployments. She added that police minister Bheki Cele also conducted a site visit in taxi ranks.
Cata secretary Mandla Hermanus said they did not know when the taxi would operate. He said their request to the government was that all operations in that area by both Cata and Codeta affiliates be suspended.