GEORGE NEWS - Though Uncedo and other local taxi associations have lifted their suspension of services in George, they say their cause is far from being over.
The suspension of taxis by the local taxi industry follows last week's stand-off between the local taxi industry and traffic authorities after 13 taxis were impounded, leading to the associations to suspend services in George.
Four vehicles were set alight last week Thursday and, due to safety concerns, Go George started to limit their operation to certain routes.
The chairman of Uncedo taxi association, Welele Mbhudede, said they decided at a meeting held on Tuesday 21 May to lift the suspension as they were considering the struggle of their commuters who had gone for six days without public transport. Uncedo national leaders also attended the meeting held at Pine Lodge.
"Our struggle against the local traffic authorities and the George Municipality who continue to violate us is not over yet. We have decided to wait for Blade Nzimande (then Minister of Transport) who promised to engage us and provincial government over our grievances and about our concerns with regard to the roll-out of Phase 4B of the Go George buses. Our hopes now depend on Nzimande."
On 25 April, Nzimande visited George and during a press conference announced the postponement of the Go George Phase 4B roll-out to the first week in June to give time to all role players to engage on the matter. The roll-out was scheduled to take place on 28 April.
Mbhudede said while their struggle continue, their customers don't have to suffer because they are not the ones they [the taxi industry] have problems with. They also had to consider their loss of income while their taxis remain stationary.
On Sunday 19 May, messages was spread on social media platforms that the taxi industry would embark on a strike that would see roads closed to prevent motorists from leaving or entering Thembalethu, Parkdene and Lawaaikamp. However, the strike did not take place.
Ntsikelelo Gaehler, president of Uncedo, was also at the meeting at Pine Lodge. He said he had warned his members against people misusing them while claiming to be representing the taxi industry while they are advancing their own political or business interest.
"You can't lead people to do something that will cause them to be arrested. When you're a leader you must always try to find peaceful means to resolve issues and find lasting solutions.
"We don't agree to violence. We have instructed our members that those who have permits must continue working, while we find a solution for those who don't have permits and engage government in this whole public transport issue in George," said Gaehle.
Go George services compromised
George municipal spokesperson Chantel Edward-Klose released a statement on Tuesday 21 May saying the Go George bus service has been severely compromised for almost a week, between 15 and 20 May.
She said this was due to intimidation of Go George staff and passengers, safety threats, and blockading of the buses from entering the CBD transport hub by some members of the taxi industry.
"In ensuring the safety of passengers and staff, this necessitated intermittent, limited or no services from time to time. Go George management acknowledges the hardship suffered by passengers whose only means of transport this is, also realising the negative impact it has had on businesses and schools where learners have also started examinations this week."
The statement said that the decision by the relevant authorities to suspend or limit services at certain times is a very difficult one to make. "The safety of passengers and staff is top priority when assessing the risk against the background of previous violent actions by disgruntled members of the taxi industry.
"Go George sympathises with every person who has been inconvenienced by the situation and we remain committed to doing our best to delivering the best service as safely as possible," it read.
Edward-Klose said Government and the George Municipality are working hard to resolve the issues, but cannot give in to demands not to enforce the country's laws on the roads. "Go George apologises for the inconvenience, especially with services having been limited or suspended on occasion at short notice due to the safety situation on the ground changing continuously.
"We also thank all employers who showed understanding and empathy to their employees during the recent transport crisis, with some even having assisted with arranging alternative transport."