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Thousands of commuters bear the brunt after taxi operators turn protests violent

Commuters were once again dealt a heavy blow as two of the biggest taxi associations caused havoc, torching buses and bringing early morning traffic on Cape Town’s busy N2 freeway to a grinding halt. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Commuters were once again dealt a heavy blow as two of the biggest taxi associations caused havoc, torching buses and bringing early morning traffic on Cape Town’s busy N2 freeway to a grinding halt. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 25, 2022

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Cape Town - The chaos and mayhem that accompanied the minibus taxi driver strike on Thursday has been roundly condemned for severely inconveniencing commuters and other road users.

Taxi owners and drivers called the strike in an attempt to strong-arm the City into not fining them and impounding their vehicles for violating traffic laws.

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While Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) – the groups behind the strike – denied their involvement in the violence, which included torching of buses and trucks and blocking the N2, frustrated commuters expressed their anger over the stress of having to seek alternative transport.

Thursday’s violence followed previous protests outside the legislature for the same reasons. Commuters and other motorists were left angry and afraid.

Mitchells Plain resident Sindisiwe Mgamle, who hired a private car to travel to work in the city centre, said her emotional well-being was affected as she stressed about how safe it would be when she returned home.

Zakhe Klaas, from Khayelitsha, said she regretted going to work on Thursday because she could think of little else apart from her safety.

Klaas, who works at Wetton, near Wynberg, said she was shocked to see buses burning as they were told that it would be a peaceful strike.

Golden Arrow Bus Services spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer confirmed that three buses were torched, in Nyanga, Philippi East and Kraaifontein. At least four passengers were injured, she said.

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“Although the motive remains unknown, it would appear to be linked to the strike,” Dyke-Beyer said.

Police spokesperson Joseph Swartbooi said three trucks and a Quantum van were set alight in Bloekombos. No arrests had yet been made.

Golden Arrows bus burning in Nyanga, Klipfontein road. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency
Golden Arrows bus burning in Nyanga, Klipfontein road. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency
Golden Arrows bus burning in Nyanga, Klipfontein road. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency

Cata and Codeta members marched to Premier Alan Winde’s office to present grievances regarding impoundments of taxis, unfair requirements for releasing impounded vehicles, and other issues affecting the taxi industry.

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Safety and security Mayco member JP Smith said: “We have tried our very best to prevent the violence and to protect commuters and private vehicles, but it is impossible to safeguard every kilometre of road and to escort every private vehicle in the affected areas.”

Smith said he understood that the police permitted the march to proceed, despite permission for the march having been withdrawn.

Smith said the City would be recording the proceedings and any damage to infrastructure or private property would result in civil legal action against the march organisers as has been the case in similar incidents in the past.

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“While the march was meant to highlight the taxi associations’ grievances, the intimidation and destruction that have accompanied their actions is counter-productive and completely unnecessary,” he said.

He said one of those grievances was what they claim to be harassment from enforcement staff.

Smith said the City was overrun by complaints about the behaviour of taxi drivers on roads, across the metropole, on a daily basis.

“Our staff are duty-bound to enforce the law.”

Both associations denied any involvement in involvement in the violence actions.

Cata secretary Mandla Hermanus said the burning of vehicles in Nyanga had been ongoing and was not new.

“The incident this morning was not taxi-related. It was a continuation of what has been going on, which might even continue after the strike, because it was not related to it,” he said.

His Codeta counterpart, Nceba Enge, said law enforcement officers should refrain from stopping minibus taxis while they ferried commuters to and from work because they had to report for duty on time and return home on time.

The associations’ list of demands was received by André Joemat of the Department of the Premier.

Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said while he respected the right of aggrieved parties to protest, violence was never an answer and the destruction of property weakened the hand of protesters and undermined the rights of others.

“I have been informed that other public transport providers are considering suspending their operations in order to protect property, assets and the lives of staff and commuters,” Mitchell said.

“This violence and disruption impacts our most vulnerable communities and must be condemned in the strongest terms. I think of the many people who are unable to get to work and put food on the table as we face the second pandemic – joblessness.”

Winde said he was also thinking of the learners who were unable to get to school.

“We cannot accept these violent acts and I call on the SAPS to ensure that law is upheld and that our residents are kept safe.”

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