‘Stop shootings before our passengers die’

ct Basil done _5258 INLSA MAKING DEMANDS: The Retreat Taxi Association's Basil Nagel was among scores of taxi owners and drivers protesting in the city centre yesterday. Photo: Bheki Radebe

Siyavuya Mzantsi

THE Retreat Taxi Association is concerned about the safety of its commuters following the fatal shooting of nine people, including taxi drivers, between Retreat and Capricorn in less than a week.

More than 200 Retreat taxi drivers staged a protest march to the transport MEC’s offices in the city centre to hand over a memorandum of demands yesterday.

“We refuse to endanger the lives of our commuters,” a driver’s poster read.

Association vice-chairman Jay-Jay Maanse said: “We want the officials to act while it’s early and before this violence affects commuters.”

The association is demanding a commission of inquiry to determine the reluctance of local and provincial government to deal with taxi-route invasions and the lack of assistance from local authorities in identifying and addressing criminal activity along the routes.

“The intense violence now occurring in Vrygrond, Steenberg and Seawinds has claimed at least nine lives and could intensify if there is not a massive and continuing police lockdown in the area. So far the violence has cost the lives of taxi drivers and gang members. The exact causes are not clear,” said former Transport MEC Robin Carlisle, who accepted the memorandum on behalf of his replacement Donald Grant, former Education MEC.

Carlisle said he had met the police and Metro police, provincial traffic, the South African Nation Taxi Council, Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations and other taxi associations .

“Deadlines were agreed for a number of steps to reduce tensions in the area, and ensure adequate police presence,” he said.

Carlisle came under verbal fire from taxi drivers who questioned him about the issuing of 10 permits for the Vrygrond Taxi Association to operate in Retreat.

A Retreat taxi driver who would speak only on condition of anonymity said they lived in fear for their lives because they were being targeted.

“We wake up as early as 5am and you don’t know if you will be still alive by 12pm. Ninety percent of our lives are in danger because you will stop for what you think are commuters only for them to shoot you. We do not know who will be next. Our lives and families are in danger.”

A Vrygrond taxi owner who also spoke anonymously said: “I lost a driver in the shootings last month. Now I hear that I am being targeted.

“We want to work with them. We want a solution to this problem as much as they do.

“It’s unfair for them to demand us to be suspended from working in Retreat.”

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