The taxi rank planned for Masiphumelele – on the site of the old Two Oceans Craft Centre – was part of the original township layout, says ward councillor Felicity Purchase.
“The taxi rank was planned to be at the Xhosa Square. Over the years, the taxi association and residents decided that they would prefer the rank to be at the entrance of Masiphumelele,” she said.
Ms Purchase said that there had been extensive discussion around the issue at that time.
“Then about three years ago, the preliminary studies were done on routes and hydrology, and as part of the World Design Capital 2014 projects, the taxi rank was prioritised for development and various designs were put forward as options,” she said.
Ms Purchase said there were workshops held in the Masiphumelele community hall and a final design was completed.
“The tender documents were prepared, but we battled to get contractors interested over the period of public violence last year,” Ms Purchase said. “We are hoping to get it started later this year. The money is on the budget, and preliminary work is being done.”
Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport, said this taxi rank proposal, as part of the World Design Capital initiative, had been discussed at a meeting in April 2014 to which community members, taxi associations and sub-councillors had been invited.
He said a further meeting had been held in September 2014 at which the Masiphumelele Taxi Association had expressed support for the plan.
Mr Herron said the current taxi rank was too small and the new rank would improve the flow of taxis.
Ms Purchase said the craft centre had been closed when the False Bay College lost its mandate from National Government to do further education and training. She said that when the principal of the training centre retired, the facility was run by a team from Masiphumelele and the college, but it never enjoyed the success it had once shown.
She explained that the tourism department then tried to use the area for tourist activities, but tours were intermittent and over time the area was plagued by vandalism and theft, eventually becoming a storage depot.
Ms Purchase said the taxi rank will be relocated to the area where the Two Oceans craft centre was, and built while the taxis continue to use the site they are presently on.
“When completed they will switch, and the City will develop the site which is currently being used. This site has a commercial zoning, and designs around the commercial development include business hives, informal trading, a plaza and some office space – with the possibility of flats above,” Ms Purchase said.
At the current taxi rank, among drivers approached, there is little knowledge of these plans, but the taxi owners who eventually agreed to speak to the False Bay Echo were positive about the move.
The False Bay Echo approached 10 people on the current taxi rank, many of whom respectfully declined to comment.
However, two taxi owners in Masiphumelele agreed to share their views on the City’s development proposal.
Difference Twasile said he arrived in the area in 1977.
“I have seen many changes over these years. As you know, there have been a number of problems recently here – with some of the young people and the taxis.
“But that is behind us now, and hopefully it will stay that way, now that the election is over,” he said.
“What is needed is exactly this: a bigger taxi rank, and one with proper facilities like toilets – for the ladies especially – and shelter from the wind,” he said.
He said he liked the sound of plans to redevelop the current site and make it a business hub. “We need businesses here, where there are businesses, there is opportunity,” he said.
Mr Twasile said the taxi owners and drivers wanted to provide a good service for their customers. “This is how we make our living, we want people to be happy. It is not in our best interests when there is unhappiness.”
He said although he had not heard about the plans in detail, if the new rank had toilets and shelter, he would be pleased.
Elvis Mgwali, another Masiphumelele taxi driver and owner, agreed.
“I feel good about the change. We need a proper rank, with space for everyone; and facilities for everyone to use,” he said. Mr Mgwali said he has been a driver for many years, in Masiphumelele and other areas. “If we have good facilities, it is good for everyone,” he said.