Police units deployed to 6 shuttered Soweto taxi ranks
Gauteng police have deployed more officers in Soweto to ensure commuters are safe on their way to work on Friday morning.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele told News24 various police units have been deployed at six taxi ranks that were shut down by the Gauteng department of roads and transport.
Makhubele said the officers arrived in the early hours of the morning to ensure commuters were safe and there were no incidents of violence.
MEC Ismail Vadi said that from Friday, the six taxi ranks operated by two warring taxi associations, the Witwatersrand Taxi Association (WATA) and the Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association, would be closed until June 15.
Vadi has urged commuters who have been relying on the two associations for transport to use alternative services, such as Metrorail, as well as municipal, provincial and private buses such including Putco and Rea Vaya.
The shutdown comes after a number of violent incidents involving the two associations' members since the beginning of the year, including the murder of WATA members SB Hadebe, treasurer SM Zwane, and vice-chairperson MT Ngubane in January.
Several minibus taxis were attacked over several days in February in Diepkloof. Armed men prevented taxis from operating on March 1 and, four days later, another attack left six people wounded and 10 vehicles damaged.
Union welcomes closure
"It is necessary to shut down their minibus taxi services for the safety of commuters and residents of Soweto. The department is fully aware that the decision taken will inconvenience commuters and residents in affected areas, however, the safety of commuters and residents comes first," said Vadi.
The MEC added that he firmly believed that the closure of the ranks was necessary to achieve normality in the area.
Meanwhile, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has welcomed the closure of the taxi ranks.
Satawu general secretary Jack Mazibuko said Vadi's decision would help in mitigating the spate of violence between the two associations. However, he raised worries about the impact the closure of the taxi ranks would have on the economy.
"The union condemns territorial disputes that result in the deaths of people and injury of commuters. We hope that an amicable solution through the current negotiation process will resolve existing violence and tensions of the two associations."
Satawu said it was also worried about "the negative impact the closure will have on the township economy in general and working class and poor commuters in particular".
"Adding to their frustrations is the closure of the M2, load shedding and constant rains which contribute to road congestion and other social challenges. Commuters have been most affected by these developments," said Mazibuko.
"The union believes that, if commuters arrive at work late, it could lead to the violation of their contractual obligations," he said.
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