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Wednesday Apr 13, 2016

Go!Durban comes to a halt again

The R20-billion Go!Durban public transport project has again come to a halt and there is a fear that the delay will not only push up the costs but force the city to extend the project's deadline.

Incomplete work on the Go!Durban project

The daily loss is estimated at R600 000 and there has been no work done at seven construction sites for the past three weeks. The stoppage came after disgruntled taxi operators who want work opportunities related to the project stormed the sites and ordered the contractors to stop construction.

There has been a series of disruptions at the construction sites, including in April last year, when disgruntled taxi operators armed with guns chased workers off sites.

A series of meetings between the city leadership and the Greater Northern Taxi Association were held this week in an attempt to resolve the latest dispute. Both eThekwini Transport Authority head Thami Manyathi and the association's Mqulusi Kubheka confirmed the meetings were ongoing but could not discuss the details.

A senior worker at one of the construction sites, who spoke to The Mercury on the condition of anonymity, said operators under the taxi association arrived on site and demanded that all construction work be stopped.

"They threatened workers' lives and said they would set equipment alight," she said.

She said the minibus taxi operators told them they had grievances and had requested the eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) listen to their complaints. "While all construction works north of the Umgeni have been suspended, the contractors and local subcontractor incur huge losses as they are not being paid by the ETA. Workers are not being paid as no work can be done," she said.

The frustrated worker said Manyathi had said he was going to meet with the association on Tuesday last week but there was no positive outcome.

She said it was agreed that work could resume on Monday (April 11), only for them to be notified at the weekend that no agreement had been reached.

"The taxi association and its members will not allow any work until their grievances have been resolved."

City spokesman Thulani Mbatha acknowledged the receipt of questions sent to him about the work stoppage but had not responded by the time of publishing.

Taxi association spokesman Yusuf Khaliva did not pick up the phone when called for comment. The Mercury understands he was part of the meeting with the city leadership.

During the disruption last April, work was put on hold for a week. The operators stormed sites in the Umgeni River area near Newlands, Dumisani Makhaye Drive, the M25, and Bridge City. Taxi operators put pressure on the city to award them contracts as "compensation" for allowing the operation of the Go!Durban routes.

Manyathi had said there was a mismatch between opportunities available and skills required. "This is frustrating these people. They can see the work going on in their neighbourhood, but they don't have the skills or experience needed to get involved."

In the last disruption, Manyathi said the transport authority proposed an incubation programme "to facilitate some involvement, even from a relatively inexperienced or unskilled base, and then people can graduate and acquire the skills that they can use in future projects".

It is not clear if the programme has been initiated.

The overall cost for all the four phases of the project is about R20 billion.

The Mercury


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