Chaos as taxis block highways

Durban long-distance commuters were left stranded at the last minute after taxis went on strike on Tuesday. | DOCTOR NGCOBO Independent Newspapers

Durban long-distance commuters were left stranded at the last minute after taxis went on strike on Tuesday. | DOCTOR NGCOBO Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 17, 2024


Durban — Scores of taxi commuters were left stranded at one of the biggest and busiest ranks in Durban on Tuesday after an impromptu strike by taxi owners.

The strike action was an angry retaliation by taxi bosses following the raid at the taxi rank (opposite the Durban Station) by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Traffic Police unit, commonly known as Shanela.

The unit pounced on the Durban Long Distance Taxi Rank during lunchtime and impounded taxis found to be unroadworthy and without the necessary documentation to be operating under the National Road Traffic Act.

In response, taxi bosses pulled out all their taxis, leaving the commuters stranded.

The taxis proceeded to the N2 highway near the oThongathi Toll Plaza and the M4 where they blockaded the highways and caused a traffic jam.

The taxis appeared to have strategically targeted the afternoon rush hour when traffic volumes were already peaking on the roads.

The blockade drew wide condemnation from motorists, who complained of delays. While motorists were scrambling to find detours out of the N2, stranded commuters at the rank were yearning for help, urging the provincial government and taxi operators to find an amicable solution for their sake.

The rank caters to long-distance commuters, including Gauteng, Ulundi, Empangeni, and Pongola in the northern corridor and other areas.

Durban long-distance commuters were left stranded at the last minute after taxis went on strike on Tuesday. | DOCTOR NGCOBO Independent Newspapers

One of the taxi owners who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity said the traffic unit raided the rank and removed discs from their taxis while being parked at the rank.

He said what angered them most was that the traffic officers were not even submitting those confiscated discs to the office but kept them in their cars to solicit bribes.

“We are being harassed by Shanela, which is why we decided to pull our vehicles from the rank. They are demanding bribes from us. We are not deserting our commuters. We understand their frustrations, it is just that we are angry at the police,” said the taxi owner.

A commuter, Thobile Ncube, who was heading to Empangeni, said she had been at the rank for a few hours. Her main concern was that it would get late and she would arrive home in the dark, which was unsafe for her.

Another commuter, Nogwaja Fakazi, from KwaMashu, who was travelling to Richards Bay, echoed Ncube’s concerns and complained that he needed to make multiple trips because from Richards Bay he would have to take another taxi.

“My blood is boiling and I am heartbroken. I need to be at Mtubatuba by 6pm because that’s when the public transport ends. I have been here since 12pm while another commuter has been here since 8am. We ask the government to please assist with this transport issue as people are trying to continue with their daily lives,” Fakazi said.

Mdu Ndlela, from Pinetown, who was also travelling to far-flung areas urged taxi owners and managers to notify commuters about such occurrences so that they can adjust accordingly.

Sifiso Sibisi and Nombuso Ndwandwe, from Ladysmith and Ulundi, respectively, were concerned about their safety and feared getting home when it was dark. They also raised the issue of accommodation and places to sleep as they came from faraway places and due to this incident, they will be stranded. The strike affected not only commuters but also the hawkers who sell cooked meals to the taxi drivers at the rank.

Masenti Mnguni, a local vendor, spoke of how this has affected her business.

“It’s painful because due to the taxis being impounded, it leads to a loss of customers.”

Mnguni hoped that the taxi issue could be sorted out soon and for her business to return to normal.

Motorists were left going nowhere slowly and frustrated by the traffic jam caused by the taxis. | Supplied

The manager responsible for the operations at the rank, Bhekisisa Nzuza, was not reachable. He was said to be among the owners and drivers who were camping at the oThongathi Toll Plaza with taxis.

The taxi owners appeared to be at odds with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the province and accused it of selling them out.

Santaco provincial spokesperson Sifiso Shangase said the strike took place while the council was engaging with the national transport minister.

Provincial Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) spokesperson Sindi kaNgidi-Msimang said the unit was doing its work. About the blockade, she said various SAPS and RTI units had been deployed to the oThongathi Toll Plaza to clear the way for other motorists while ensuring that there was no violence.

She urged motorists coming from Empangeni and other northern areas, and Durban to use alternative routes.

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