Taxi drivers blockaded the Post Office parking lot in the Port Alfred CBD on recently to highlight a dispute between two rival taxi associations over where passengers can be loaded.
It is the third time in as many years that Uncedo taxi drivers have resorted to blocking access through the parking lot to compel local authorities to put a stop to Nonkqubela taxi drivers using the car park to pick up passengers rather than the official taxi rank in Biscay Road.
Police were already on the scene by the time TotT arrived, but were just observing the situation until a senior ranking officer arrived. They also advised motorists to park elsewhere until the situation was resolved.
One business owner told TotT the blockade was hurting businesses around the car park.
Some motorists expressed frustration at being parked in by taxis, while others turned around and exited when they saw the blockade. But a blue car with four men inside tried to push through the group of taxi drivers as they were talking to police, even bumping into a reporter, eliciting outrage from the taxi drivers and a warning from the police.
Another taxi driver threatened a TotT reporter for taking a video of the scene.
Uncedo taxi drivers accused Nonkqubela taxi drivers of “stealing passengers” as they are not registered to load passengers at the taxi rank.
One of the Uncedo taxi drivers who did not want to be named said: “These people (Nonkqubela taxi drivers) are stealing passengers with their small unregistered cars. This has been happening for a while now. People are no longer coming to the rank because these guys are taking them. This area is not a taxi rank, there is only one taxi rank in Port Alfred.”
Although the police report about the incident called the other association “Nonkqubela”, Uncedo taxi drivers referred to it as the Border taxi association. They said Border drivers should only operate in Kenton-on-Sea, Marselle and Alexandria – not in Port Alfred.
The driver doing most of the talking went on to accuse Ndlambe Municipality of allowing Nonkqubela taxi drivers to use the Post Office parking lot as a rank.
“They say they are allowed by the municipality to load people here. We have been reporting this matter to police but they do nothing about it. We are not fighting anyone, we are only loading people here because they do not come to the rank. But if we are attacked we will defend ourselves,” he said.
According to the Uncedo taxi driver, people prefer to use Nonkqubela vehicles because they are small and therefore get full faster and depart sooner than taxis. He said Nonkqubela taxi drivers were using Facebook to establish themselves and attract passengers.
He said police should stop Nonkqubela taxi drivers from loading passengers at the Post Office parking lot because it was not registered as the taxi rank.
While signs of aggression were evident, including one man armed with a baseball bat, police at the scene ensured that the altercation did not result to physical violence.
Police told the fuming Ncedo taxi drivers that it was not SAPS’ job to remove Nonkqubela taxi drivers from parking at the Post Office parking lot. The captain doing most of the talking said police would send a request to Ndlambe community protection services deputy director Fanie Fouche to put up signs at the parking lot stating “This is not a taxi rank”.
While police were engaging the Uncedo taxi drivers, Nonkqubela drivers stood quietly on the periphery, appearing not to be part of the discussions.
When one of them, who did not want to be named, was asked their side of the story he said they once cooperated with Uncedo taxi drivers until one of their drivers and a passenger were assaulted by Uncedo taxi drivers.
He added that Uncedo taxi drivers demanded that the case against their members be withdrawn in order for the associations to work together again. The Nonkqubela drivers refused and started using the Post Office parking lot.
Before this incident, a TotT reporter was also informed that joining the Uncedo association in Port Alfred costs a registration fee of R10,000.
Commenting on the incident, police spokesperson Sergeant Majola Nkohli said: “Police can confirm that today (January 3), at about 11.45am, they attended to a complaint at the Kekkel and Kraai parking area. A complaint was a dispute between two taxi associations, namely Uncedo and Nonkqubela associations. It is said that about 15 taxis blocked the entrance and exit to the parking area, but the drivers later removed their vehicles.”
Nkohli further confirmed that the matter was being resolved on the same day by the executive committee members of the two taxi associations.