LIMPOPO – A slow convoy of protesting drivers from the Makhado Long Distance Taxi Association (Malta) and the Louis Trichardt-Musina Taxi Association blocked traffic along the main road on the N1 towards Polokwane last Tuesday as they staged a slow drive to the Capital Roads and Transport Department.
Protesting drivers drove from Louis Trichardt to Polokwane without carrying commuters, while some commuters attempted to hitchhike with private motorists to get to Polokwane and their place of work during a slowdown at the Department of Roads and capital transport.
Read more: TRAFFIC ALERT: taxi protest causes traffic jams on the N1 north
The LTT-Musina Taxi Association and Maltese operators accuse the Beitbridge Taxi Association (BTA) of invading their territory, despite a ruling to the contrary by the Polokwane High Court in 2019.
The decision came into effect in 2020 after the same disputes between the associations erupted and BTA was banned from operating on the Musina-Louis Trichardt road, as well as the Musina-Polokwane road.
The Ministry of Roads and Transport, as well as the police were instructed by the court to enforce the law by issuing fines and arresting BTA members, if they operated on these roads.
The LTT-Musina Taxi Association and members in Malta complained that the court order was not enforced because, still in 2020, their members were intimidated by BTA members who blocked their entry to the Musina Taxi Rank to prevent them from operating. Four BTA members were arrested at the time.
Makhado Long Distance Taxi Association President Mathakha Maliaga explained that their taxis have not been able to transport Musina commuters for four years now as their vehicles are turned away by BTA members .
He accused Transport of failing to carry out the court order, which ruled in their favor.
“Taxi owners are demanding government action to stop pirate taxis carrying commuters, and we will suspend their operations until they do.”
He added that in April, a memorandum was delivered to the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Transport for the attention of the MEC, Mavhungu Lerule Ramakhanya. They were given seven days to respond to their requests, but neither department has responded to the memorandum to date.
This is the reason, according to Maliaga, why they took a slow route along the main road on the N1 to Polokwane in the department.
“I hope the government will start protecting us. These illegal taxis must be abolished. The situation is only getting worse,” Maliaga said.
Commuters who needed to get to work were not friendly though.
“I left home at 05:00 hoping that I would have transportation available, but clearly there is no transportation for us. It’s tough for us. Commuters are as soon as possible because of these route disputes. They should sort out their problems because we can’t go to work and on top of that it’s cold,” said one of the commuters.
The letter was received and signed by Acting Transportation Chief Steve Matjena on June 7. He said he has received complaints from both associations and that the department is committed to an action plan.
Matjena said that on June 9, officials from his department, the police, and Musina municipality officials would drive the taxi association to the taxi stand to ensure their operations ran smoothly. He also said they would follow up on old cases.