The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MASABATA MKWANANZI @Sa­bie_M

SOWETO com­muters are in for a tor­rid time for the next few weeks fol­low­ing the shut­down of five taxi ranks and routes.

Gaut­eng MEC for Roads and Trans­port Is­mail Vadi and Com­mu­nity Safety MEC Siza­kele Nkosi-Malobane yes­ter­day said the prov­ince would close minibus taxi ranks and re­lated routes linked to the Nance­field Dube West Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion (Nan­duwe) and the Wit­wa­ter­srand Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion (Wata) from to­mor­row.

Vadi said that from to­mor­row to Au­gust 13, Mo­folo KwaM­thethwa in­for­mal taxi rank, Makhetha Stores in­for­mal taxi rank, Dube sta­tion taxi rank, Makhetha Garage (Phe­feni) taxi rank and Un­cle Tom’s taxi rank would be tem­po­rar­ily closed.

Gaut­eng has been forced to make the un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sion fol­low­ing re­cent re­ports of deadly shootouts over routes.

Vadi said the mea­sure was sup­ported by the City of Joburg and law en­force­ment agen­cies in the prov­ince.

“The pro­vi­sions of sec­tion 91 of the Na­tional Land Trans­port Act 5 of 2009 set out the ba­sis on which par­tic­u­lar ranks and routes in an area may be closed by the MEC re­spon­si­ble for pub­lic trans­port. Cir­cum­stances war­rant­ing such ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures in­clude vi­o­lence, un­rest or in­sta­bil­ity in any sec­tor of the pub­lic trans­port in­dus­try in a de­clared area or be­tween op­er­a­tors in an area, the safety of pas­sen­gers us­ing the rel­e­vant ser­vices, or where the sit­u­a­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated to an un­ac­cept­able level that clo­sure of ranks and/or routes is re­quired to nor­malise the sit­u­a­tion.

“We have con­crete and cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that the vi­o­lence, un­rest and in­sta­bil­ity are of such a high level to jus­tify ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures,” said Vadi.

He added that on Mon­day, heav­ily armed men al­legedly linked to both Wata and Nan­duwe had a con­fronta­tion in the af­fected area in the pres­ence of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

“There have been in­stances of un­law­ful road block­ades in the Joburg CBD, lead­ing to se­vere dis­rup­tion of traf­fic and eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said.

Vadi also high­lighted the re­cent ac­tion by mem­bers of Nan­duwe sup­ported by heav­ily armed se­cu­rity guards, who un­law­fully and il­le­gally block­aded sev­eral streets in the city on Fri­day.

“It is in the pub­lic in­ter­est that we act now. As ex­ec­u­tive author­i­ties for pub­lic trans­port and com­mu­nity safety, we are re­spon­si­ble for the safety of com­muters and the pub­lic at large,” Vadi said.

He urged the lead­er­ship and mem­ber­ship of taxi as­so­ci­a­tions to pub­licly dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from crim­i­nal and un­law­ful acts that showed wan­ton dis­re­gard for the safety and lives of in­no­cent peo­ple.

Nkosi-Malobane said law en­force­ment met yes­ter­day to make sure that op­er­a­tors abide with the de­ci­sion.

“We are con­fi­dent that our teams will be on the ground by 12.30am on Thurs­day to make sure that no mem­bers from Wata or Nan­duwe op­er­ate in the five ar­eas,” the MEC said.

She added that the de­part­ment would be en­gag­ing with com­muters at the White City taxi rank to­day to in­form them about the changes.

“It is bet­ter to walk than to be killed, we have al­ready lost some of the in­no­cent mem­bers of the com­mu­nity in these fights be­tween Wata and Nan­duwe,” she said.

Nkosi-Malobane added that some of these taxi op­er­a­tors use au­to­matic ri­fles in a pub­lic space, and it was about time that they were taught a les­son.

She said the de­part­ment recog­nised that the clo­sure of the said ranks and routes would in­con­ve­nience com­muters and the com­mu­nity at large.

Com­muters are ad­vised to use al­ter­na­tive pub­lic trans­port in Soweto such as rail, buses and Rea Vaya ser­vices.

The de­part­ment also in­di­cated that any per­son who con­tra­venes the pub­lished reg­u­la­tions and op­er­ates a minibus taxi ser­vice at the said ranks and routes would be guilty of an of­fence.

“Where a per­son is con­victed of con­tra­ven­ing the reg­u­la­tion, a term of im­pris­on­ment not ex­ceed­ing six months or a fine not ex­ceed­ing R25 000 may be im­posed,” the MEC said.

‘It is bet­ter to walk than to be killed’

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