Taxi operators in Claremont have made an astonishing claim that traffic officers are purposefully disrupting their routes so customers will turn to public transport systems like MyCiTi instead.
The allegation, which was supported by a high-ranking taxi association official, comes after the City’s mayoral committee last week unanimously approved a recommendation to go ahead with the Lansdown Wetton Corridor MyCiTi route.
The corridor includes the T11 route from Khayelitsha to the intersection of Strandfontein and New Ottery roads, and the T12 route between Mitchell’s Plain and Claremont.
A full council meeting must now approve the plans.
City officials say the drivers’ claim is “nothing short of ludicrous”, as it has received numerous complaints about the driving behaviour of taxi drivers entering the Claremont precinct, including driving over kerbs, driving through traffic lights, overloading, disobeying stop signs and taking short cuts through residential areas, which is contrary to conditions of operating permits.
While the T11 route has courted tremendous controversy in the past, with court action being launched over initial plans to extend the route to Wynberg, the T12 route has been largely unopposed to date.
In fact, Claremont business owners and managers interviewed by the Tatler this week welcomed the mayoral committee’s approval of the T12 route, believing it will not only bring them new customers thanks to an envisaged reach to 1.4 million residents in the metro south east, but enable employees living in Mitchell’s Plain to arrive at work on time.
But taxi drivers at the Claremont taxi rank said the introduction of this route, expected to be operational by early 2021, would “rob” them of customers.
Operator Mzingisi Mzandisi, speaking on behalf of a group of drivers, claimed there were deliberate attempts to make taxi drivers late so that passengers would choose other public transport like MyCiTi buses.
“The City is sending out traffic cops to disrupt our route. There is nothing wrong with our taxis, but they pull us over for little things. They stop us and check for things like whether we have a fire extinguisher on board. They know that we do, but they pull us over anyway. That makes us late, and of course passengers get angry with us, the drivers. They then take other forms of transport, which is what the City wants,” Mr Mzandisi said.
“To us they are taking away our bread and butter by doing things like this. This new MyCiTi route is going to put even more pressure on us. Most of us at this taxi rank work on commission. We do not own the taxis. So we have to drive as much as possible to make money, but then we get pulled over.”
Mr Mzandisi has been a driver for more than 17 years, and supports a wife and three children on his earned commission.
“The taxi industry doesn’t just support our livelihoods. There are young girls here (at the rank) who are employed to wash our taxis. Without that money, they have nothing. But the City doesn’t care about this. They just want to make money for themselves.”
A prominent taxi association official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he believed Mr Mzandisi was correct in saying that traffic officers were deliberately causing drivers to be late.
Responding to the allegation, which he deemed “nothing short of ludicrous”, JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, said Cape Town traffic services enforcement actions were largely complaint-driven.
“In the last year, we have received 15 complaints about contraventions of the National Road Traffic Act by public transport operators. This excludes complaints attended to during general enforcement operations,” he said.
“In the last two and a half months, Cape Town Traffic Services has conducted five operations in the Claremont area. Officers impounded 19 vehicles after drivers were found to not have valid operating licences or to be trading in contravention of their operating licences. In addition, staff handed out 478 fines for various transgressions. That is nearly 100 fines per operation and clearly indicative that the complaints received are justified.”
He said the the solution was simple. “Adhere to the law and be considerate to commuters as well as other road users and there will not be a need for enforcement.”
At the other end of the spectrum, business owners and managers in Claremont could not be happier about the mayoral committee’s approval of the route.
“The My CiTi route from Mitchell’s Plain to Claremont would actually be beneficial towards our business as we are currently servicing a lot of clients that are coming from Mitchell’s Plain,” said manager of the Old Mutual Finance branch in Claremont, Siyanda Kobe.
“We are currently facing a major issue when it comes to staff being at work on time and this is due to lack of convenient public transport. Having this route would be a great relief for us as our staff would actually manage to be at work on time to prepare for their day.”
”I am definitely in favour of this route,” said Ahmad Sajjad, the owner of Main Road cellphone sales and repair business Cell Zone.
“Of course any business coming from Mitchell’s Plain is good. And of course for people who work in Claremont it is going to make life easier. They won’t have to wait in long queues like they do now. If I could make one suggestion it is that the City looks at ways to develop a route between Athlone and Claremont. There are a lot of people who work here who come from there.”
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, said once the T11 and T12 routes were rolled out, the lives of at least one million people living in the metro south-east and the southern suburbs would be transformed.
“In addition, the project will see the investment of R4.1 billion over the coming years, in accordance with the allocation of national grant funding. This will be spent on the construction of the dedicated red lanes, bus stops, stations, depots, park-and-ride facilities, and non-motorised transport facilities to meet the demand of a ridership estimated to be four times that of Phase 1 of the MyCiTi service,” Mr Herron said.
“Wherever we have rolled out the MyCiTi service across Cape Town, an increase in property values is consistently reported, and we have also noticed new investments in either existing businesses or new businesses. With the huge transport expenditure in the metro-south east we expect to see a similar pattern of new developments, private investment and the subsequent urban regeneration in the areas where we intend to roll-out the T11 and T12 routes.”
Mr Herron said it should be remembered that taxi drivers currently operating these routes would be compensated, just has been the case in Phase 1 of the project.
“Come October 2016, the City would have compensated up to 650 taxi operating licence-holders from the Cape Town inner-city, Table View, Dunoon, Maitland and Atlantis to the value of nearly R660 million in exchange for their vehicles and operating licences to make way for the MyCiTi bus service in these areas,” he said.
“Apart from the compensation, the City is also offering the minibus-taxi operators the opportunity to join Kidrogen and Transpeninsula – the MyCiTi vehicle operating companies (VOCs) along the West Coast and Cape Town inner-city – as shareholders. Furthermore, we are offering their staff employment within the MyCiTi system, either as MyCiTi bus drivers once they have concluded their driver training for which the City is paying, as part of station management, or within advertising or landscaping.”
He said those minibus-taxi operators who received compensation were obliged to hand over the names of all of their employees to the City’s transport authority. TCT officials record these names on the TCT employment register and the MyCiTi vehicle operating companies are then obliged to re-employ people from this register.