Whether you like them or not, taxi operators play an important role in South Africa’s economy. They ensure that millions of South Africans, who depend on them as their mode of transport, get to their destinations on time.
However, these operators have a reputation for reckless driving and for also engaging in acts of violence in their quest for increased profit. The rivalry between individual operators and taxi associations can sometimes lead to loss of life.
The town of Mthatha has witnessed such incidents with clashes between Uncedo Taxi Association and Border Alliance Taxi Association. The violence between these two associations has claimed 60 lives since 2016.
The killings have occurred on the R61 road between Port St John’s and Mthatha and on the N2 highway between Mthatha and Tsolo. Much has been done to put an end to these senseless killings but with little progress.
The new Minister of Police Bheki Cele stepped in, and he announced an indefinite closure of these routes. He likened the taxi industry to a funeral parlour because of the increased body count occurring as a result of their selfish actions.
Faced with the loss of livelihood, the operators responded by burning tyres all over the streets of Mthatha in protest. But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining.
The breakthrough, in this case, happened as a result of efforts by various stakeholders, including the Mthatha Ministers Fraternal. The fraternal organized a citywide prayer event at the local town hall which was attended by taxi operators and other stakeholders.
The facilitator of the prayer meeting was Pastor David Mqamelo of Good News Community Church. Mqamelo also works for the Nelson Mandela Museum and is also the Deputy Chairperson of Provincial Community Road Safety Council.
The prayer meeting was held on April 15, and Mqamelo was touched by what transpired on the day.
“In a packed hall, we saw taxi operators surrendering themselves to Christ. They asked for forgiveness to the community of Mthatha and called for peace.”
With hearts now softened, the operators went on to have a meeting with Minister Cele, local government officials and religious leaders. In that meeting, held on April 20, the minister gave the taxi industry a firm warning that he’s prepared to shut down their operations permanently if their violent actions lead to further deaths.
The meeting ended with a peace accord signed between the two associations – with the minister and MEC co-signing.
The result is that the moratorium was lifted and as taxi operations resumed from the 21st April 2018.
Pastor Mqamelo believes that the church’s intervention was a catalyst in getting this deal signed. He says, “We thank the religious sector for their influence, intervention, and prayers during this period. With God all things are possible.”