No water, toilets or electricity in multi-million rand Eastern Cape taxi rank

The contractor for the Xhora taxi rank has been in a dispute with the municipality for over eight years

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

4 July 2023

Taxi owners say the Mbhashe Local Municipality has handed over an incomplete taxi rank. The rank site was abandoned by the contractor in 2014/15 due to an ongoing payment dispute with the municipality. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Taxi operators in Xhora, near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, are fed up with the local municipality over the incomplete construction of a multi-million rand taxi rank.

Construction started in 2011, but the contractor abandoned the site around 2014/15 and never returned, following a payment dispute with the Amathole District Municipality.

The rank does not have water, electricity, working toilets or stalls for vendors as was expected.

Taxi owners told GroundUp that the zinc roofing and awning had to be donated by a local businessman.

Amathole District Municipality spokesperson Sisa Msiwa says the project was funded by the national Department of Transport. A tender of R4.9-million was awarded to Balintulo Trading / Bright Idea Projects, of which R1.3-million was spent.

She said the company completed phase one of the project, which included a gravel surface holding area, wash bays, an asphalt surface loading area and sidewalks.

Msiwa said the company’s contract was terminated due to non-performance.

The contractor then took the municipality to court. This, as well as the Covid lockdown, delayed the project. (GroundUp has not been able to access the dispute documentation.)

Yanga Dlali, secretary of Uncedo Taxi Association in Xhora, said that when the unfinished taxi rank was officially handed over to them they were promised that a contractor would come to finish the job. This never happened.

GroundUp saw several women relieving themselves in a nearby open field because the rank has no working toilets.

“This taxi rank is very dark in winter. People become targets of criminals. When they relieve themselves in that open field they get robbed,” said Dlali.

“This was supposed to be a big taxi rank, considering the number of taxis going out of Xhora to other towns like Mthatha, East London and Butterworth. Long distance taxis also use this taxi rank,” said Dlali.

As there are no stalls for vendors, a food vendor at the rank, Simamkele Jiyane, said they use cardboard sheets to protect their gas stoves from the wind. “When it rains we don’t come to work, so we lose money. The sad thing is that there’s no hope that the municipality will fix this taxi rank,” she said.

Mbhashe Local Municipality spokesperson Nomakhulu Dingane denied committing to the provision of stalls for vendors.

Balintulo Trading director Sabelo Balintulo confirmed that its contract had been terminated “unexpectedly” in 2014/15. In response Balintulo had pursued an arbitration process. “Unfortunately, the outcome of the arbitration did not align with our expectations, prompting us to pursue review proceedings,” he said.

“Regrettably, since then, there has been a lack of progress or developments in resolving this matter. We share the desire to bring this issue to a close and reach a final resolution. We must emphasise that the delay in reaching a resolution was not due to any actions or shortcomings on our part, but rather the municipality,” he said.