Cape Town -
The Retreat Taxi Association has hit out at mayor Patricia de Lille, saying it was appalled by her silence on eight deaths that were a result of taxi “warfare” and gang and drug-related conflict.
The association said in an open a letter to the mayor that the sentiment in the taxi industry was that a complete shutdown of the city’s transport operations “may be the only way to get your attention”.
It criticised De Lille for not receiving their memorandum at a protest march two weeks ago. “You and the officials that should engage with the taxi industry and concerned commuters on the Cape Flats chose not to surface. We can only assume that eight deaths were not enough to garner your attention… We came to your door to deliver a message from a community in fear. You have shut a door in our faces.”
The demands on the memorandum have not been addressed. The suspended Vrygrond Taxi Association continued to operate illegally, on routes not allocated to it, in front of police and city community safety officials.
The association said De Lille could call on the local authorities to protect school children and commuters, and the legal taxi operators.
City and Western Cape politicians and officials had been told of the invasion of taxi routes in Retreat, death threats and extortion over the last five years.
“Why have you chosen not to get involved?”
The association questioned the city’s transformation plan for segregated communities, and said 20 years after democracy “Bishop Lavis still looks a lot different from Bishopscourt”.
While they did not expect change overnight, nor handouts, there was “nothing to hold on to” in these communities.
“If you cannot see the potential of the minibus taxi industry in the city to drive your transformation goals and develop jobs, introduce new commercial nodes into economically dormant communities and drive economic transformation in the city, then you are failing us.”
The Cape Times asked De Lille for comment. Councillor Brett Herron replied on her behalf and said the city was concerned about violent crime in Retreat, and had gone “above and beyond its mandate” to protect residents and taxi drivers.
The city’s metro police had been deployed two weeks ago to help police. Since then there had been no reported incidents of violence and several illegal firearms had been seized.
The provincial government had suspended the Vrygrond Taxi Association, so it was dishonest to say nothing was being done.
Herron rejected the association’s suggestion that there was no will in the city to bridge the apartheid legacy of an economic and spatial divide. The proposed extension of the MyCiTi bus service was testament to this.
“It became clear from my discussion with the executive of the Retreat Taxi Association that their real gripe is their access to the industry transition opportunities. We explained to them that the economic and industry transition opportunities are being offered in the first instance to the directly affected associations,” Herron said.
The city had engaged with Santaco, the national taxi council, about a range of issues, including economic opportunities. The city wanted to sign a memorandum of understanding with Santaco Western Cape, but the Retreat Taxi Association had indicated it did not recognise this body.