Cape Town - Bellville taxi rank, where rival taxi associations have shot at one other, has now become the site of attacks on women passengers, with several attacks reported in the past few days.
In one of the recent incidents, traffic officers arrested a taxi driver and his assistant on charges of robbery, kidnapping and assault after the officers noticed a woman in a taxi screaming and banging against the door of the vehicle on Wednesday.
City Traffic Services spokesperson Richard Coleman said the woman indicated that she got into the taxi from Goodwood, to Bellville via Voortrekker Road, but the driver went off route and instructed the guard to rob her.
Coleman said that at the time of the attack officers had been engaged in an operation along Jakes Gerwel Drive.
He said that when they stopped the vehicle, the woman informed them that the taxi driver and his guard had attacked her with pepper spray and robbed her of her handbag and watch.
Coleman said she decided to raise the alarm when she saw the traffic officers at the side of the road at the intersection of Jakes Gerwel Drive and Voortrekker Road.
He said officers accompanied the 29-year-old woman to Goodwood police station, where a docket was opened, and the suspects, aged 29 and 27, were detained.
Coleman said they impounded the taxi for operating contrary to the stipulations of the operating permit.
In another incident, police recently issued an alert that they were looking for assistance in tracing a taxi driver who could assist in the investigation of a case of attempted rape, after he choked and undressed a woman in a taxi at the Bellville taxi rank.
Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi said the victim was travelling by taxi from Philippi to Bellville. Upon arrival at the taxi rank, the driver moved to the back of the taxi, where he undressed the woman.
Swartbooi said an argument erupted, and he choked the woman until she passed out. “Moments later, she found her underwear next to her on the floor in the taxi, after which she was ordered to dress and to leave.”
He said Bellville police registered a case of attempted rape for further investigation. The suspect was believed to be in the Browns Farm area.
On Saturday, in yet another incident, a 35-year-old woman was allegedly robbed of her valuables in a taxi in Voortrekker Road in Maitland. Two unknown men searched her at gunpoint just after the traffic circle in Salt River.
Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association secretary general Mandla Hermanus said he was not aware of the incidents. However, he would ask his colleagues.
Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations spokesperson Andile Khanyi said none of the incidents had been reported to them. He said Bellville was a big route and it was also an interchange.
“Our working committee is always available in Bellville. If it was one of the drivers, we would have known, and those drivers would have been arrested by now,” said Khanyi.
Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell’s spokesperson, Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, said Mitchell deeply regretted the criminal incidents, and believed the police would investigate them and bring the perpetrators to book.
SA National Taxi Council provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer condemned the heinous acts of criminality in the taxi industry.
“We hope that the law enforcement agencies will catch these people responsible for the acts. If caught, they should get the harshest punishment possible,” said Geyer.
City Traffic Service spokesperson Maxine Bezuidenhout said the City’s Traffic Services has increased its integrated operations with the police, which allowed them to search vehicles and interview passengers.
SA Council for Women Commuters president Lulama Manatha said gender-based violence was very prevalent in the minibus-taxis because of the coercion, control, blatant disregard for the rule of law and patriarchy enjoyed by the industry.
Manatha said it was disheartening that one might be raped while in transit.
“Bellville taxi rank has a violent history,” she said.
She said lawlessness has been allowed for far too long, and the government has done little to encourage compliance.
“Female commuters have a right to demand for female drivers and operators who will respect the status of women,” said Manatha.
She called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a state of emergency, saying women and children could not be left in the hands of lawless people who were operating with state-based operating licences.