Update: Paarl taxi violence
Media Release by Bonginkosi Madikizela Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works
Over the last two months, the conflict between rival taxi associations in the Mbekweni, Paarl area, cost the lives of seven operators and drivers.
During my visit to Mbekweni and to the families of the deceased on the 27th of February, I committed my Department to getting to the root causes of the violence and to work closely with the SAPS to bring those criminals behind the killings to book.
I have stated that one of my top priorities during my term as Minister of Transport and Public Works is to restore dignity and safety to the public transport system. But in working towards this objective, I have asked my officials to avoid knee-jerk reactions and short term solutions that seek only to appease the perpetrators of violence. To this end, I instructed my Department to appoint a mediator to engage in a process to uncover the root causes behind the violent conflict and to engage all stakeholders before making recommendations towards a lasting peace and solution to conflict.
My officials and I are receiving regular updates on the mediation process and I am encouraged by the recent break-throughs achieved by a team of mediators at the Southern African Development and Reconstruction Agency (SADRA) in getting parties, who were initially resistant to the mediation process, around the table. This development augurs well for the success of the process.
While there have been announcements made of closing ranks and routes, which will undoubtedly impact negatively on commuters who rely on minibus taxis for their daily commute to work or to school, I want to assure all parties that I will only consider such drastic measures as an absolute last resort after getting advise from the SAPS and my officials that the lives of commuters are at risk. Section 91 of the National Land Transport Act assigns the mandate and power to take extraordinary measures (such as the closing of routes and ranks) in a declared area, to the MEC responsible for transport. The same section also describes the process of consultation with local planning authorities that may be affected by such extraordinary measures.
I have been engaging the National Minister of Transport and officials from his Department and appealed that we all respect the mediation process that we agreed to on the 27th of February not to make announcements or promises that may undermine the mediators, the process or legislation.
I also cautioned against political interference from some in the Paarl area who see this unfortunate tragedy as an opportunity to score political points.
My Department and I have made it clear that we will not compromise on the rule of law and we cooperate fully with the SAPS as they continue with their investigations into the murders and other taxi related crimes in Mbekweni and other parts of the province.
I am very encouraged by the number of arrests over the last few months by the SAPS in cases involving taxi related crimes; and also by recent convictions and stiff sentences meted out to the criminals and hitmen that were shown to have no respect for human life or dignity. I am confident that it is only a matter of time before the paymasters of these hitmen are also brought to justice.