Johannesburg – Testifying before the commission of inquiry into taxi violence last Thursday in Parktown, Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo said since taking office he has established that some taxi associations have their own hitmen.
Mamabolo said this information was revealed to him through his interventions with various taxi associations.
“These hitmen are not for free. How can we have operating licences issued by the state to promote murder? We need to strengthen legislation and the law so that killings will not be allowed,” he said.
Mamabolo said instability and violence in the taxi industry has a negative impact on the economy, and is concerned with allegations surrounding the hitmen as associations allegedly use heavily armed security guards at taxi ranks.
“Dealing with rival taxi associations and dealing with the taxi industry is a baptism of fire. It is a deeper problem I have to deal with,” he said.
Mamabolo said there seemed to be an increase in the number of people killed versus the number of suspects being prosecuted and convicted. “Why are we not seeing a successful rate of prosecutions?” he asked.
Mamabolo has predicted an ugly war if the taxi industry is not properly regulated by government.
He told the commission of inquiry into taxi violence in Gauteng, chaired by Judge Jeremiah Shongwe and commissioners Hlula Msimang and Lungile Mabece, that the industry which he himself fears is also feared by everybody else.
“It has an opportunity to turn itself into a powerful model of BEE; the government must bring it together and state organs must work together to improve the taxi industry. As government, we should be interested in published financial statements and how money is spent, and look who is into the industry, including government employees and others who are fronting. We need to know who the illegal operators in the industry are. If we don’t do that, we will perpetuate the industry that is left to itself, we are totally neglecting it. If the taxi industry is left to itself, it grows into an animal that we are all afraid of. If we work with them, we will be able to empower it and give it money. We can’t give people money who are going to hire inkabis(hitmen) with government money to kill each other. If you value something, you put money in it. We don’t know how many associations and operators are in Gauteng, and how many taxis are in Gauteng. Imagine we were subsidising commuters who carry cards and when they use them, part of the payment goes to government. It will reduce the cost of travelling in taxis. Women who joined the industry after the deaths of their husbands complained that they need a door from government where they can come and raise their issues. By regularising the industry, we will be saving it,” Mamabolo said.
He added: “We can’t tell operators what to do because they live by themselves. If we don’t put money into it, it is a no man’s world. The industry is critical and we must take care of it, clean it and prevent it from collapsing.
If there would be a taxi war now, the economy will be severely affected and many commuters are going to lose their jobs because some employers don’t understand taxi violence,” Mamabolo said.