Cape Town - A high-level meeting between the Western Cape government, the police and state intelligence officials has revealed that the unrest in Nyanga which flung Cape Town’s public transport into chaos this week is linked to an “internal war” among members of a well-known taxi association in the city.
Of further concern was that law enforcement agencies had been warned on Sunday of possible unrest on Monday, but had been unable to prevent it.
A taxi driver was shot dead while several buses were set alight - four were badly damaged - and 11 bus drivers were assaulted near the Nyanga Bus Terminus on Monday.
Briefing the Western Cape provincial parliament’s standing committee on transport on Tuesday, Transport MEC Donald Grant said the matter was far more complex, because it had to do with an internal war at one particular taxi association. And his department made it clear that the unrest was driven by taxi driver complaints about vehicle impoundment and stringent fines.
The department’s Kyle Reinecke told the committee the issue was a driver strike and not an operator strike. “Drivers are upset about stringent fines and the impounding of their vehicles as they are the ones who have to pay the fines and if their taxis are impounded they cannot work.”
Grant did not name the culprits, adding only that the matter was being investigated by police. He stressed that the torched buses, costing R1.6 million each, were a serious matter for Golden Arrow as a listed public company.
“They’ve laid charges with the police and the matter is now… being investigated… We are not going to sit idly by while people take each other on,” he said.
Grant also expressed concern about the reaction of law enforcers, saying they had received information on Sunday about a possible threat, which was relayed to law enforcement units.
Grant added that they “expected operational capacity on the ground” on Monday.
In this regard he said Community Safety MEC Dan Plato requested that Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer come to the provincial cabinet on Wednesday to explain.
Grant told the committee that his biggest concern was the lawlessness within the Western Cape and the capacity of the police to deal with it.
“So we are doing our best with limited resources, but every time a bus or a train goes up in flames or a taxi goes up in flames, it is restricting our ability for our citizens to express and enjoy their constitutional rights about going to work. It is a very, very serious situation and we are not taking it lightly at all,” he said.
Speaking after the briefing, Grant said that after Monday night’s meeting, police crime intelligence as well as state security officials went back to their principals to make sure there was a reduced likelihood of further unrest.
ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore said it was absolutely critical that the available intelligence was improved.
“On the one hand you have the city mayor, Patricia de Lille, referring to an ungovernability strategy and on the other hand this committee received a report about internal problems within the taxi associations.”
Dugmore said the problem would not be addressed unless there was “reliable and solid intelligence”.
“We clearly need a much more co-ordinated and co-operative approach between national, provincial and local government to come to terms with acts of sabotage that are impacting on public transport in our province.”
Dugmore said the ANC was in the process of setting up a meeting with the national minister of transport to really bring across the very deep concerns about how what was happening was impacting on public transport in the city and affecting the poorest of the poor.
Committee chairman Lennit Max said the committee was concerned that police and intelligence were alerted but that the unrest still occurred. “We are of the opinion that more could have been done to prevent this. It is a very serious case if there is evidence that they neglected to verify and act on the information.”