George’s taxi industry faces a possible two-month shutdown as ongoing disputes over the final phase of the subsidised Go George bus service is making taxi travel “high risk”, according to a Government Gazette notice published on Friday.
“This untenable situation is compromising peace and stability within the public transport industry and could result in further incidents of violence and could escalate into the loss of human lives,” Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant said in the notice.
“This should be avoided at all cost.”
In the notice Grant explained that the process of introducing the Go George bus service and buying out taxi routes has been fraught, with at least two assassinations, attacks on buses and numerous protests.
Taxi organisations and interested parties have until May 22 to make representations and following that, Grant could publish a final notice which will see almost all of the current taxi operators shut down for two months.
The routes affected are operated by the George Taxi Association and the Uncedo George Taxi Association and cover a multitude of short and long distance destinations such as George to Uniondale, George to Bellville in Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Uitenhage, Beaufort West and Knysna. The routes to Port Elizabeth, East London and Worcester could also be affected.
The ranks at risk of closure are in Thembalethu and the George CBD.
He said he reserved the right to only close certain routes, or certain of the loading lanes at the rank depending on the progress made by departmental officials, advice received from other stakeholders and government departments, as well as the situation on the ground.
Before the rank or routes are closed, he will publish a final notice in the Government Gazette.
Violating the closure could lead to a R20 000 fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months, vehicles being impounded and licences removed.
Grant could allow other operators, who need not be the holders of operating licences or permits for the affected routes and areas currently, to provide the services in the interim until the situation returns to normal.
These actions would be implemented in phases at his discretion and in consultation with other government departments and interested parties.
All of this will be done if there are any further occurrences of violence. If the closure goes through and peace is restored before the two months are up, the ranks and routes might be reopened sooner, and suspensions on operating licences lifted.
If not, the closure will be extended by another two months.
At the time of writing, the George Municipality announced that after a day of the Go George being closed, it had reopened again late afternoon.
“Go George is happy to announce the resumption of as many routes and trips as possible until 19:00 tonight,” it said.
The latest updates will continually be shared on the Go George Facebook page or the call centre on 0800 044 044 for the latest news.