Pretoria - Government is scaling down police operations in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria after taxi-related violence subsided, Gauteng MEC for community safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane said on Saturday.
“We have a commitment from the taxi leadership that there will be peace. We will now scale down our operations but there will still be visibility of our police on the ground because what is more important is the safety of commuters,” she told reporters at the Koedoespoort pound in Pretoria.
“We are not interested in anything else but the safety of our commuters. We will ensure that our officers still operate and make sure that our people are actually safe. If anything happens, we are ready to protect our people.”
She said there was no amnesty on the taxis impounded in Mamelodi.
“On all the 33 taxis that were released yesterday (Friday), only one didn’t pay because the courts had scrapped the fine. Each of the 32 had paid between R300 and R1 500. There is no amnesty, people must pay for the offences that they have committed,” said Nkosi-Malobane.
Nkosi-Malobane and Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi waited for hours but no taxi operators arrived to claim their vehicles at the Koedoespoort pound on Saturday morning.
“The vehicles are not being freely released. We told the owners that when they come they have to bring proof that they have paid the fines or proof that courts have cancelled the fine. They must also bring operating permits and roadworthy certificates,” said Nkosi-Malobane.
She said provincial authorities and representatives of the impounded taxis agreed at a meeting on Friday that they would meet at the Koedoespoort pound on Saturday.
“We were here by 9 o’clock with the hope that the owners would come and fetch their cars. None of the owners have showed up. There might be reasons why they are not here. We will come back on Monday and monitor the situation,” she said.
Nkosi-Malobane said all the impounded taxis would be checked for roadworthiness before they leave the pound.
Close to 30 taxis which service the Mamelodi area were still in the pound on Saturday. Police officers were stationed outside the pound.
On Thursday, the Mamelodi Long and Local Taxi Association warned that taxi services across Gauteng would be shut down if the impounded minibus taxis were not urgently released.
Violence erupted in Mamelodi last week as taxi operators sought to block Autopax buses from operating in the area.
Government reacted by implementing the controversial Operation Fiela, which resulted in roadblocks and searches. Numerous minibus taxis were impounded during the operation.
On Saturday, the South African National Taxi Council’s Abner Tsebe said the owners did not pitch because “some of them are hostel dwellers and are going back to pick the vehicles’ documents from places like Limpopo”.
“They have an appointment to come and take the vehicles on Monday,” said Tsebe.
“For us commuter safely is a priority. The fact that these vehicles are here is a blessing in disguise. It’s a learning curve. We don’t allow the taxi owners to hire drivers without licenses. We are going to address our members.”
He said the taxi council was working to ensure that there would not be further flare-ups of violence in the area.
“There is light after the tunnel. There is no bus that will be attacked by the taxi operators. You can quote me on that one. We are guaranteeing that there will be no violence,” said Tsebe.
The National Taxi Alliance’s Piet Mahlangu said the possibility of violence was unforeseeable.
“We have agreed to let bygones be bygones. We have buried what has happened and we have a way forward. We condemn, by all means possible, situations where a driver doesn’t have a PDP (professional driving permit) or a license,” said Mahlangu.
“Police must arrest them. We can’t allow that in any way. All the cars that were impounded must be released based on their defects and so on. If a car has a lot of defects then the owner must take responsibility. The can’t leave this place without being fixed. The law must take it’s course. We support the law enforcers.”