The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has called out the City of Cape Town for its alleged use of brutal force against minibus taxi operators.
On Tuesday afternoon, minibus taxi operators blocked roads around the Station Deck and prevented MyCiTi buses and other vehicles from exiting the central business district (CBD).
This comes after the City’s implementation of the new amended traffic by-law.
The newly amended by-law means traffic officials can now impound vehicles for transgressions such as not displaying a number plate correctly or not having a valid vehicle licence or driving licence.
On Wednesday, the EFF in the Cape Metro released a statement condemning the actions of the City of Cape Town against the minibus taxi operators.
“In the recent trending videos which have been verified, the DA-led City of Cape Town Metro Police is seen brutally beating up taxi drivers and destructing taxi property,” the statement read.
“In the destruction, metro police smash the windows of taxi vehicles driven by taxi operators peacefully protesting the unjust weaponisation of permits and taxi impoundments,” the EFF said.
“For a long time, the taxi industry has suffered victimisation from the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town,” the party said.
“The City of Cape Town deliberately delays the issuance of taxi operating permits in order to frustrate taxi operators, as taxis compete directly with municipally funded buses, from which the city does not directly benefit.”
It further stated the City of Cape Town has failed to issue operating permits and thus its law enforcement agencies engage in mass impounding of minibus taxis.
“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,” the EFF said.
“The recent passing of by-laws by the City of Cape Town further aggravates the already damaged relationships between the City and the taxi industry. As a result, the officers have gone beyond the by-laws and impound taxis for reasons not specified in the by-laws.”
It also warned the City to prioritise engagements and bilateral engagements towards issuing permits.
However, mayoral committee member for urban mobility, Councillor Rob Quintas said the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) withdrew from engagements with the City and the Western Cape Government (WCG) last week.
Quintas said the City and the WCG sent a joint letter to Santaco with proposals to address some of their concerns. These proposals included the impounding of vehicles operating illegally without operating licences, or contrary to their licence conditions, IOL previously reported.
The EFF has been engaging with taxi drivers to deal with the matter.
“As a result, the EFF will hold meetings with the taxi operators and suggest a possible way forward as sympathisers of the injustice against the industry. If the DA refuses to cooperate with taxi operators and stakeholders, we will be left with no choice but to confront the City of Cape Town head-on,” the EFF said.
“The EFF is encouraging all those who have had their vehicles smashed by officers to open cases with the South African Police Services (SAPS) against the City of Cape Town.”
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, Alderman JP Smith rubbished the claims of brutality during the taxi blockade.
He said its traffic services impounded 15 public transport vehicles in the area and this resulted in the blockade in the CBD.
“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,” Smith said.
“Officers came under fire and responded using stun grenades and tear gas. It was discovered that several of the suspects had locked themselves in a taxi and senior SAPS officials ordered members to breach the vehicle,” he said.
“Officers responded by breaking a window and removing the occupants from the vehicle. Several suspects were taken into custody.”
He said the City will not be intimidated by those in the taxi industry who react violently to any attempts to enforce national legislation.
“As we indicated once again recently, the City is inundated with complaints pertaining to public transport operators who do not adhere to the rules of the road – both from the public, but also legitimate operators who are bullied and intimidated by illegal operators,” Smith said.
“The rules of the road apply to all, equally and the provisions of the law will be enforced without fear or favour. There can be no justification for the mayhem that ensued – no one grouping or entity is above the law.”