Taxis are still not running normally between Westlake and Retreat after a week of unrest between rival operators. Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) and Westlake Taxi Association (WTA) have been at loggerheads and the situation is still volatile after a stand-off on Thursday September 22.
The RTA marched to Westlake on the day, after their drivers were denied access to the area.
The association’s chairperson, Basil Nagel, said the protest was in retaliation to WTA’s route invasion and in return they stopped WTA from leaving Westlake. Since then RTA have had to drop commuters at boundary of Westlake for fear of being attacked.
WTA chairperson Hudson Mlungwana admitted that the route invasion by his association was illegal but claimed RTA was also operating in the area illegally.
“They came to chase us out for not having permits to operate there,” he said. “We are both illegal but there is a demand.”
He added that WTA had applied for permits to travel on the route but were denied. Meanwhile Mr Nagel has denied allegations that RTA were illegally operating on the route.
“We have been driving this route with permits for the past 42 years. Westlake is not prepared to follow legal processes so they are invading our route. We understand that there is a need but they need to go about it legally because if we were to operate illegally our vehicles would have been impounded,” said Mr Nagel.
Westlake and Retreat commuters were severely affected by the unrest. Many walked the nearly seven kilometers to Retreat from Westlake because too few taxis were operating.
Shereen Nash van der Meulen told the Westlake Community Foundation’s Facebook page that she waited for a taxi for 30 minutes before she discovered that there were no taxis driving from Westlake to Retreat.
“I walked to work eventually. I was very late,” she said.
Illze Leaner said on Facebook: “The fact that we as the community of Westlake are being put in danger is insane. For some odd reason taxi drivers close Westlake down and think nothing of it. Westlake taxi drivers got the route from Westlake to Wynberg, from Blue Route to Westlake, why be greedy and put our lives in danger for their benefit? We have always been fine with driving with Retreat taxi drivers.”
Mercia Philander who travels from Steenberg to Westlake for work daily said it was sad that commuters were the ones who inevitably suffer.
“We have to walk in the rain, dark and dangerous conditions because of one taxi association’s illegal activity. RTA has been operating in the area for decades and have every right to do so. We’re the ones suffering,” she said.
Mr Nagel added that the association will monitor the situation over the next week. “We are hoping to work towards a solution but we will not tolerate lawlessness.”
Kirstenhof Police spokesperson Sergeant Deidre Solomon confirmed the protest and said they are on high alert because of the situation.
Traffic Services spokesperson Richard Colman said the department is aware of the tension in the area and have been patrolling and monitoring the situation.
“We hope the associations will come to some resolution and sit around the same table as far as the routes are concerned,”said Mr Colman.