Tension over the taxi route between the city and Extension 10 has been the cause of blockades since Friday 14 December and the complete closure of the Queen Street rank in Makhanda (Grahamstown) on Wednesday afternoon. The disruption has come at the peak period for taxis, and the greatest need for many passengers, as they spend end-of-year bonuses on school supplies and uniforms, along with festive season purchases.
On Wednesday 19 December officers from Grahamstown SAPS, Public Order Policing (Port Elizabeth) and Makana Traffic Department were deployed to the Queen Street taxi rank around 12.30pm as vehicles from the Uncedo Taxi Association blocked the rank and the Hooggenoeg route. They were protesting against the fact that competitor the Grahamstown Taxi Association, an affiliate of Border Alliance Taxi Association, was also operating on the route.
Grocott’s Mail spoke to Uncedo chairperson Monde Sandi around 3pm on Wednesday 19 December. Sandi denied knowledge of the blockade or the rank’s closure.
“I am out of town,” he told Grocott’s Mail. “I know nothing of any blockade.” He said his officials would be back in town later the next day and would be able to answer questions.
GRATA secretary Nkosana Khuselo, said the police had ordered the Queen Street rank closed yesterday, pending the outcome of talks between the two associations and the municipal manager.
The rank’s closure saw the city turned into a cacophony of hooting, shouting destinations and sliding doors, as drivers took to the streets to hunt down customers. Police were kept busy as drivers attempted to establish a temporary rank in a shop’s parking lot off Beaufort Street.
GRATA chairperson Dole Kondile said, “It’s going to be like this until they open that rank again – this ‘toot-toot’ all over town. How else must they find their passengers?”
There is disagreement about the Extension 10 route. Khuselo showed Grocott’s Mail documents which he said were from the Transport Department. They were detailed lists and descriptions of the routes of GRATA and Uncedo respectively.
The Extension 10 route – worth at least R6000 a day – appeared to be listed under GRATA and this, Khuselo said, was what Uncedo objected to.
In the absence of official comment from Uncedo, Grocott’s Mail spoke to a member driver, who confirmed their unhappiness with GRATA taxis competing for customers on a route they said Uncedo had opened.
“That is our route. They took our route,” said the person, who said GRATA had started operating on it around three months ago.
Khuselo maintains that in meetings following the last conflict between the two associations in September 2018, it was discovered that Uncedo had no local routes.
“We agreed that Uncedo should submit proposed local routes,” Khuselo said. “Then GRATA and Uncedo were supposed to sit and discuss them. Once we agreed, a letter of recommendation from the municipal manager, and one from the police, were supposed to be submitted to Mthuthuzeli Siwa, Manager in the Eastern Cape Department of Transport.
“That never happened.”
Commuters are affected. Taxis from the Queen Street rank go to Extension 10, Ectension 8, Extension 9, Xolani, Tantyi, Joza and Vukani. Taxis from behind Shoprite go only to Tantyi and Joza, Khusile said.
“This is making our people more vulnerable,” said Kondile.
Grocott’s Mail has not yet heard the outcome of yesterday afternoon’s meeting with the municipal manager.