An 11-year-old schoolgirl with Down Syndrome was among a number of casualties, one fatal, of a taxi strike that turned violent and was set to enter its second day on Tuesday.
Shumeez Scott sustained deep gashes to her face after the school bus in which she and fellow special-needs pupils, some in wheelchairs, were being transported was pelted on Lansdowne Road on Monday.
And Metro Emergency Medical Services reports two of its ambulances dispatched to Crossroads to collect two women, one in labour, had to turn back when they were stoned in separate incidents.
Provincial EMS spokesperson Keri Davids said the first incident was at 4am in Gqoloma Street, the second eight hours later in Noxolo Street.
A bakery truck driver was shot dead and the truck set alight in Nyanga as he tried to escape. Although it was not clear whether the bakery truck was attacked by taxi strikers, authorities listed it as one of several violent incidents resulting from the strike action.
“It was sad to hear that a breadwinner had lost his life because of this dispute,” provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said at a media conference attended by Safety MEC Albert Fritz and Transport MEC Robin Carlisle.
In another incident, a four-year-old child was sent to hospital after a rubber bullet fired by police struck her during a violent exchange with a group armed with stones in Nyanga.
A bus ferrying a blind child and visually impaired adults in Langa was stoned on Monday afternoon.
Authorities said 37 Golden Arrow buses were stoned and 17 passengers and a driver injured in the violence.
Six bakkies were burnt out. No arrests had been made, but police were investigating.
“In addition to these and many other incidents of violence, there has been massive intimidation of the bulk of the industry who are opposing the strike,” Carlisle said. “As we speak, pro-strike elements are moving into Mitchells Plain where taxis are still operating. There can be no question that their intentions are violent.
“The public, particularly in Mitchells Plain, are warned about three vehicles whose occupants are armed.”
The vehicles are a maroon Golf, silver grey Avanza and white Toyota Venture.
SA National Taxi Association chairman Vernon Billet said: “Unfortunately South Africa is a country where there’s a high unemployment rate and you get people who take advantage … Santaco members were not involved in any forms of violence.”
On Monday, the Down Syndrome child lay in bed in her Mitchells Plain home worried she may be scarred for life.
Shumeez’s mother Bahia Janodien, 35, said Shumeez and the other children were being transported to Filia Special School in Goodwood when their bus came under attack.
The windscreen and windows of the bus were smashed and it was abandoned in the road while Shumeez was rushed to her school’s emergency room and later to N1 City Hospital. The shocked children were later seen by a psychologist at the school.
“What kills me as a mother is that they hurt innocent children and in this case ones with special needs. You don’t do this to children as they cannot stand up for themselves,” said an angry Janodien as she comforted her daughter.
She said the child had been left traumatised and terrified of going to school or near a bus. Shumeez did not talk but was visibly traumatised.
“She just said: ‘Mommy, the glass came to my face.’ I was shocked, she is my everything, my angel,” said Janodien.
The League of Friends of the Blind (Lofob) said the bus driver was shocked and damage to the vehicle would cost thousands.
“Lofob understands that people might wish to protest but we will not accept violence against innocent people as part of protest action. The taxi associations who called this strike must take full responsibility for the collateral damage,” Lofob executive director Philip Bam said on Monday afternoon.
Earlier, Landsdowne road in Nyanga was littered with bricks, dirt and glass, forcing commuters to run to nearby highways as buses could not drive through Lansdowne.
Drivers could be seen parking their buses on the side of the road and running for cover.
Commuter Albertina Kralo, 52, said she was on her way to work by bus, passing a bridge in Nyanga, when a group of men appeared and threw bricks at the bus, injuring some passengers.
“Everyone screamed and immediately (fell) to the ground. All you could see was flying glass. Luckily there were no serious injuries besides cuts and bruises,” she said.
With the strike entering its second day, police said they will not tolerate violence or intimidation. “We cannot allow the City to go up in flames because of this dispute,” warned Lamoer.
Last night two buses were set alight in Makhaza on Baden Powell Drive and Landile Road, said police spokesperson Andre Traut. One driver had minor injuries while the second escaped unharmed.
Commuters returning home from work by bus had to be dropped off outside townships as drivers were scared of being stoned or set alight.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said violence had no place in protests or strike action and Cosatu condemned it without reservation. - Cape Times