Pretoria - Security was heightened at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of the South African government, on Wednesday as a large crowd of taxi drivers and operators affiliated to the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) marched to the premises.
The protesters were let onto the lawn area at around 2pm, but the entrances which lead further into the vast property which also accommodate President Jacob Zuma’s offices, were closed off, and manned by police officers.
Members of the South African Police Service and the Tshwane Metro Police had led the protesters from Marabastad, west of Pretoria, into the inner city, and to the Union Buildings on the eastern side.
Some of the SAPS vehicles visible behind the high security fence were written “Middelburg POP [public order police], “Provincial Head Office TRT [tactical response team]”, “Rustenburg POP”, and “POP Reserve Unit Pretoria”.
When the protesters arrived at the Union Buildings, a military helicopter also arrived on the scene, hovering over the disgruntled taxi industry stakeholders.
As the protesters dispersed from the Union Buildings, Tshwane Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahmba said transport services across the capital city had been crippled on Wednesday.
“The march started around 11 at the old Putco depot in Marabastad, and they handed the first memorandum at department of transport at around midday. They have now handed their last memorandum at Union Buildings at around 2pm. The streets that were affected include Struben, between Cowie and Nelson Mandela Drive. In the morning, roads leading into the Pretoria CBD from Soshanguve, Hammanskraal, Mamelodi were heavily affected due to taxi drivers that were driving slowly towards town,” said Mahamba.
“At this stage, we can confirm one incident whereby in Cullinan a member of the Tshwane Metro Police Department was assaulted. We managed to arrest two suspects from that scene. Other incidents, if any, are still to be confirmed.”
Many of the protesting taxi drivers were holding sjamboks and sticks while others were seen holding bricks.
There was very little taxi activity on Pretoria roads, and commuters were rushing to use Metrorail trains.