Members of the taxi industry in Nelson Mandela Bay have accused the municipality of fuelling tensions and sowing divisions among the associations in a bid to exclude them from the roll out of the city’s bus system.
Warning that some industry players were becoming increasingly agitated, Laphum’ilanga chief executive Gregory Rockman maintained that the longawaited integrated public transport system (IPTS) would not go ahead next month if the operators are not united.
Laphum’ilanga, the body formed to represent the taxi associations, feels sidelined as the metro is negotiating with individual taxi associations instead of with it.
It said it had received the mandate, in September, from nine out of the 10 associations in the Bay to represent the industry.
However, four associations have since signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the municipality to operate the buses.
Rockman said this was as a result of meddling by municipal officials and roads and transport political head, Rano Kayser, who he accused of causing the divisions.
“They found a united industry which is already volatile in itself,” he said.
“Officials and councillor Kayser are encouraging associations to break away.
“They have split the [Algoa Taxi Association] which I belong to in two, turning friends into enemies.
“We are at a very dangerous point. If they don’t come to their senses, it’s out of our hands.”
Rockman urged the municipality to revert back to the MOA drafted before the elections which acknowledged Laphum’ilanga as the voice representing the industry. Kayser denied there were attempts to cause divisions, saying the metro wanted to improve the industry instead.
“On Friday, the executive mayor [Athol Trollip] and I attended a banquet of Pedita [PE District Taxi Association] where we pledged our support to the industry,” he said.
“Last month, we addressed 150 to 200 operators from Pedita. That alone demonstrates that we are not dividing the industry.”
Responding to the mandate of nine associations being ignored, Kayser said they had dealt with the matter with Rockman at two meetings earlier this year.
More than R2-billion has been spent on the IPTS since 2008.
The municipality hopes to start the pilot on the Cleary Park route at the end of next month, after initially saying it would start this month.
The delay, it said, was because it was battling to get support from all the taxi organisations.