There was all of the sudden hope, when PUTCO Buses stopped operating commuter routes as they have been more known for lying broken at the road side than bringing commuters safely to work and home. Autopax started its services in their stead on 1 July, with brand new, shiny buses, comfortable, safe and reliable as well as – compared to Taxi fares – affordable. A new chapter in Pubic Transport was supposed to bring hope, which was shattered violently as Taxi driver started throwing stones and now even firing bullets at buses and drivers, one bus driver dying on the scene this morning near Mamelodi. Police? Looks away! Government? Ignorantly absent!
Therefore it came as no surprise when Mamelodi commuters angrily confronted Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa (ANC) when he visited a bus depot after shots were earlier fired at a bus. The community accused the government of being reactive rather than proactive as a standoff between taxi operators and Autopax dragged on for a third day.
A group of residents surrounded Ramokgopa to voice their dissatisfaction. “Why did you wait for bloodshed before intervening? Why was this not resolved sooner? You are reactive instead of being proactive,” shouted one commuter. They also accused police of failing to keep them safe. As Ramokgopa was entering the depot, buses being escorted by police were going on their different routes. The move angered the commuters. “Why are they only moving at 10:00? They are just putting on a show for the dignitaries to seem as though they are doing something. No buses were moving from 05:00. We could not get to work but now they are moving,” said another commuter.
h3. Inapt Handling of Situation by Government
Ramokgopa admitted that government had handled the matter poorly and said a concrete solution had to be found to return stability to the area. He said they were committed to ensuring services return to normal. “It’s a valid point they are making. This action should have been instituted much earlier. We met with taxis industry and thought we had reached an agreement. We did not expect this. We need to intensify our actions and ensure that they are taken to work because the possibility of them being retrenched is high,” said Ramokgopa. A high level delegation meeting involving Ramokgopa, MEC Ismail Vadi, Gauteng Premier David Makhura and the taxi industry was under way.
The meeting hopes to come up with a solution for the situation to return to normal, but we all know, until measures are put in place to fight the relentlessly unlawful behaviour of the Taxi Unions, the Taxi Associations and their drivers, we still be held hostage by the Taxi Mafia. Jumping red robots, overtaking on curbs and attacking public transport operators have been the day-to-day occurrence over a decade now. The reason why the MyCityBus in Cape Town works is, because the Premier threatened to shut down all taxi operations with the help of the national guards if they continue their boycotts.
One wonders why it is only the ANC-governed regions that plead ignorance. Or one knows ….. just follow the ownership structures of the taxis in Gauteng, a lot of prominent local ANC politicians will feature!