THERE were bitter exchanges of words yesterday between Gwanda Town Council officials and commuter operators at the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Railway (BBR) taxi rank after mayor Knowledge Ndlovu told transporters that council had resolved to move them to the old Renkini bus terminus in Jahunda with immediate effect.
The BBR taxi rank is located in the central business district (CBD) and commuter operators argued the move to relocate them would push them out of business.
Ndlovu, who was accompanied by fellow councillors and council management, traffic police and officials from the Vehicle Inspection Department, arrived at the rank and began issuing orders that commuter operators vacate the premises.
“We are not here for a meeting, but to order you to stop using this rank and go to (old) Renkini. The issue was advertised in the press and no objections were made,” Ndlovu said, much to the chagrin of transporters.
BBR Taxis Association chairperson Stuck Malemane dismissed as untrue reports that they had not objected to the move saying they had written several letters to council without response.
“We have written letters to your office (mayor), to the engineer and town clerk and we have also approached MPs about this issue and we are surprised you have come here to order us to vacate this place,” Malemane said.
Council chamber secretary Priscilla Nkala said BBR taxi rank posed a health risk as it had no toilet facilities, an assertion which was dismissed by the taxi association. Malemane said the whole town had no public toilets and council should not give that as an excuse.
“We have a number of illegal taxi ranks in town which do not have toilets, but we do not know why this one is being singled out.”
Sibangani Ncube, a transporter, said the decision to move the taxi rank would affect their customers who are mainly low-paid pensioners.
“People we transport will be seeking services such as health, banks and passports, but now they will have to hire taxis to take them to (old) Renkini which is over a kilometre away from the CBD,” Ncube, who also deputises Malemane said.
Mandla Nkala, who runs a business near the taxi rank, said it was unfortunate that the councillors were making resolutions to fix others.
He said it boggled the mind why council singled out the taxi rank for relocation when several others were operating illegally in the town.