Opposition parties in the Western Cape have thrown their weight behind the local taxi industry following violent clashes between drivers and law enforcement officers in the city centre over the impounding of their vehicles.
The ANC in the Western Cape has said the "kragdadigheid" (heavy-handedness) of the law enforcement officers was “a human rights violation and a recipe for racial division".
ANC provincial secretary, Neville Delport, said: “Tuesday's actions represent the apartheid-inspired dictatorial and divisive modus operandi of the DA when dealing with matters affecting the poor and working class in the Western Cape.
"Mini-bus taxi operators have been in constant engagement with the City, demanding that working cars should not be impounded while the process of waiting for their permits is still ongoing. Notwithstanding the ANC's advice, the DA-led administration, like the apartheid government, responded with violence instead of constructive dialogue. In fact, to date, the City has failed to respond to a memorandum from the taxi industry. We are not surprised by these actions 29 years into our democracy.”
EFF Cape Metro's regional chairperson, Ntsikelelo Tyandela, accused the City of deliberately delaying the issuance of taxi operating permits in order to frustrate taxi operators.
"The EFF stands strongly opposed to the harsh and newly enacted by-laws that empower officers to impound a taxi instead of issuing a fine. We warn the City to prioritise engagements towards issuing permits and stop its brutal usage of state apparatus to target the taxi industry, as it will result in catastrophic consequences," said Tyandela.
Safety and Security mayco member JP Smith said the City’s traffic services impounded 15 public transport vehicles in the area, resulting in a blockade by taxi drivers of the station deck taxi rank and surrounds.
“The situation became more volatile following an assault on a traffic officer, with the SAPS Public Order Policing Unit responding, supported by the Metro Police Tactical Response Unit. Officers came under fire, and responded using stun grenades and tear gas. It was then discovered that several of the suspects had locked themselves in a taxi, and senior SAPS officials ordered members to breach the vehicle. Officers responded by breaking a window and removing the occupants from the vehicle,” he said.
Smith said the City was inundated with complaints pertaining to public transport operators who did not adhere to the rules of the road – both from the public and from legitimate operators who were “bullied and intimidated” by illegal operators.
In another incident, a passenger was shot in his leg by a law enforcement officer during a scuffle that occurred during a routine traffic stop on Wednesday.
Smith said two City traffic officers conducted a routine traffic stop, where a taxi disobeyed a red traffic light at the corner of Jan Smuts Drive and Govan Mbeki Road.
While attempting to issue a fine, the driver and his passenger allegedly became riotous, and started assaulting the officers. During the scuffle, one of the officers fired two shots, wounding one of the attackers in the leg, said Smith.
"Both suspects were detained at Philippi SAPS. The officers sustained some bruises and scratches during the altercation. This brazen attack comes on the back of yesterday’s chaos in the CBD, where taxi drivers also assaulted a traffic officer and staged a blockade in response to enforcement operations. I have said it before, and will reiterate it once more – we will not bow to intimidation by anyone who thinks that they have a right to break the law and not face the consequences," said Smith.