Mamelodi taxi drivers forcefully unblock Solomon Mahlangu Drive, which had been barricaded by protesting residents. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Media.
Pretoria - In an usual turn of events, taxi drivers operating along Solomon Mahlangu Drive in Mamelodi East assumed the role of police on Monday and stopped protesting residents from barricading the roads.

Two Toyota Quantums packed with taxi drivers confronted protesters who had blocked the busy road since the morning for a service delivery protest. The protesters had put stones, bricks and burning tyres across the road.

The taxi drivers claimed the protest was affecting their daily operations. “We already had a rough month with schools being closed and not having enough people to transport,” said one driver. “We lost a lot of money. Now that schools are open these residents want to block the roads and deprive us of our daily bread.”

Another said that protesters should not involve them in their business. “Why must their business affect the rest of the community?”

The taxi drivers threatened to use violence if the protesters refused to open the road. They carried batons and sticks and threatened to use them. Police kept a keen eye on both protesters and taxi drivers. The protesters later dispersed while taxi drivers cleared the road of debris, burnt tyres and stones.

Metrorail said its morning peak train service was disrupted due to the violence.

The residents had moved their protest action from Pienaarspoort to Metrorail’s railway line, stoning passing trains and burning tyres on the tracks. This caused major train delays, with some running two hours behind schedule.

Metrorail spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said: “We strongly condemn the tendency of communities we serve to take any protests, including municipal service delivery-related frustrations, to the railway as it negatively impacts on hundreds of commuters dependent on trains to get to their destination and economic activities.”

Residents from Kopanong informal settlement had taken to the streets in the morning and barricaded roads, protesting against poor service delivery. They claimed mayor Solly Msimanga had not visited the area since taking office last year.

The residents are among those who moved from Stoffel Park and Extension 11 informal settlement to Kopanong informal settlement in 2015.

They said they were promised permanent stands with water and electricity, but none of this had come to fruition.

“We do not have water and electricity, the place is unhygienic,” said a community leader.

“We use mobile toilets, which are only cleaned every three weeks. And when they are cleaned, the proper cleaning materials are not used.”

Another resident, Katlego Mashika, said they had barricaded Solomon Mahlangu Drive because they wanted government to see how serious they were.

“We want the matter resolved as soon as possible; not tomorrow, today.”

Mashika said residents were also facing transport problems as they had to walk long distances to catch taxis to work and schools.

Residents demanded that MMC for housing and human settlements Mandla Nkomo and Msimanga should go to the area to see the living conditions first-hand.

Earlier in the year, the residents embarked on a similar protest, and after visiting the area, Nkomo advised them to form a committee.

Pretoria News

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