Taxi associations cross swords

Commuters were stranded yesterday as two warring taxi associations clashed on who should operate from the Tsholomnqa taxi rank and route.

SIMMERING TENSIONS: Taxis parked outside Ebuhlanti rank in East London as associations fight for routes Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA

Uncedo Service Taxi Association and Mdantsane East London and district Taxi Association (Melta) drivers have been accused of beating four taxi drivers aligned to Border Taxi Alliance. The claim has been denied by the associations, saying it was one of their drivers who was assaulted during the standoff.

At the centre of the fight is which association has the right to operate from the Tsholomnqa taxi rank.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch yesterday, Border Alliance taxi driver Zilindile Thiko claimed: “Men from Uncedo and Melta arrived at the rank and started firing gunshots but no one sustained gun wounds.”

Thiko accused members of the two associations of blocking all rank exits and blocking all Border Alliance taxi drivers from operating.

“They beat us up and took our car keys. Some of us are injured because we didn’t expect to be attacked.

“We did not retaliate as we knew that commuters would be caught up in the crossfire had we fought back,” he said.

Another Border Alliance taxi driver, Mncedisi Vakele, said: “They [Uncedo and Melta] started shooting [so] we had no choice but to run for our lives. Four elderly taxi drivers have been injured.”

Uncedo Mdantsane East London cluster spokesman Vuyani Mbewu denied any claims of violence.

“Our members did not incite violence on anyone. All I know is that our members went there to defend our routes that were forcefully taken by Border Alliance,” he said.

Melta spokesman Welile Blayi echoed Mbewu’s sentiments.

“We sent [our] members to queue for positions but they were refused access,” said Blayi.

Chairman of Uncedo/Melta Gabs Mtshala said: “Every taxi driver has the right to move from one taxi association to the next, but the rank and routes are ours. We want them to move out of our rank.”

While taxi drivers said four of their own were arrested, police spokeswoman Warrant officer Hazel Mqala said “everything is under control. No one was arrested.” She also said no injuries were reported.

Mdantsane East London Taxi Association (Meta), a Border Alliance affiliate, said it was willing to go back to the boardroom and seek an amicable solution to the problem.

Meta chairman Michael Mphunga said: “I am willing to sit down and negotiate with Gabs and others because what is important here is for commuters to be transported.”