“From political wars to taxi wars” : investigating the transition of taxi violence in a low-income urban community in the Mpumalanga Township, South Africa.
Ngubane, Londeka Princess.
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Taxi violence is a fundamental challenge in South Africa. Most disturbing is the prevalence of innocent passengers, including children, who become the victims of this form of violence. The main aim of this study was to investigate the transition of taxi violence in a new democratic South Africa and to suggest ways in which the country should deal with the issue of taxi violence. The study argues that issues around taxi routes, rank space, the poaching of passengers from one taxi association by another, as well as greed, remain major contributing factors to ongoing taxi conflicts. This thesis presents a comprehensive interpretation of the transition of the minibus-taxi industry over various periods and the conflicts and violence that have overwhelmed it since the advent of the minibus-taxi industry. In an attempt to comprehensively understand the growth, the developments, as well as the fundamental issues affecting taxi violence, a comprehensive historical overview of the minibus-taxi industry and the challenges that have plagued it is presented. The overview covers significant sequential periods, namely 1977-1987; 1987-1994; 1994-1999; and 1999 to date. The research study thus focused on the transition and development of the minibus-taxi industry and its related violent conflicts within the years of apartheid and since its demise. An analysis of the apartheid Government’s efforts to resolve the conflicts and complications in the minibus-taxi industry is followed by an investigation of the new democratic Government’s attempts to implement various strategies that would remedy the situation. Such strategies have seen the transformation, formalization as well as the deregulation of the taxi industry in South Africa. Particular foci of the investigation were the nature of and the connection that existed among taxi violence, taxi owners and law enforcement agencies. Therefore, in addition to a comprehensive literature review, interviews were conducted with fifteen taxi drivers in an attempt to illuminate the current causes of taxi violence from taxi drivers’ perspective. It was envisaged that the interviews would offer in-depth insights into the respondents’ opinions and perceptions of current issues relating to taxi violence in the minibus-taxi industry. This qualitative data collection method utilised semi-structured interviews. The interview schedule contained both open-ended and close-ended questions. The findings were analysed by means of a thematic analysis process which was utilized as a means of making sense of the data by extracting various emerging themes. Two significant theories underpinned this study, namely the conflict theory and the labeling theory. The findings revealed that, despite the demise of apartheid, taxi violence still remains a major challenge in the South African minibus-taxi industry. The research study was conducted in Mpumalanga township, which is a low-urban community settlement in the eThekwini Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal province. The interview data corroborated the findings of previous studies as it was found that perpetrators of taxi violence are predominantly taxi owners who contest ‘ownership’ of lucrative routes.