TAXI drivers desperate on carrying on with their trade yesterday sjambokked rampaging Mamelodi residents who had blocked roads from early in the morning in a service delivery protest.
However, the protesters retaliated by hurling stones at the drivers operating the busy Tsamaya Road route in Mamelodi West.
From the early morning, all entrances leading into Mamelodi were blocked by residents with burning tyres, boulders and broken beer bottles.
Metrorail said its morning peak train service was disrupted between Eerste Fabrieke-Pienaarspoort stations because of the violent protest.
“The community resorted to blocking the railway tracks between Mamelodi Gardens and Pienaars- poort stations, making it impossible for trains to operate past Eerste Fabrieke station,” Metrorail spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said.
“Subsequently, all Pienaarspoort trains were turning at Eerste Fabrieke station until it was safe to run trains beyond Eerste Fabrieke station.”
Mofokeng said Metrorail management advised commuters to make alternative transport arrangements.
Residents who attempted to leave the area for work were turned back.
Two vehicles were burnt and others driving past were stoned.
Passers-by were assaulted. Equally, journalists were kept at bay and warned not to take any pictures.
Throughout the day the protests intensified without a visible police presence. Nellmapius and Solomon Mahlangu roads also suffered the same fate.
Among many of their complaints, the residents said their electricity, water and sewerage bills had ballooned.
But their action forced taxi drivers to mobilise themselves and charged the protesters.
They claimed the protest was affecting their operations, the situation already made worse because schools had closed.
“This is our daily bread. They (protesters) don’t want to work; they want things for free while we slave for our families. They should use the energy to create job opportunities instead of destroying the infrastructure,” said a taxi driver, who did not want to be named.
Before long, violence broke out between the two groups. Drivers carrying sjambok and batons attacked the residents in a desperate attempt to disperse them.
One resident was whipped mercilessly with sjamboks and lay bleeding on the ground. The residents threatened to report the matter to the taxi association and submit registration numbers of the taxis involved.
The protesters, under the banner of the Tshwane Concerned Residents organisation, also used full refuse bags to barricade the entrance to the municipal office in Mamelodi West.
People who wanted to pay their rent or make inquiries were turned away. A heavy Tshwane Metro Police contingency kept a close eye on this group.
Pensioner Eunice Thabete, 71, said her R1600 grant from the government only covered her grocery bills and was not enough for the high water and electricity bills. “I have applied for the Poor of the Poorest programme but have been waiting for years,” she said.
Others complained about their faulty water meters and said municipal workers sent to investigate the problem claimed all was well.
The chairperson of the Tshwane Concerned Residents, Oupa Mtshweni, accused mayor Solly Msimanga of not taking them seriously. “We marched to Tshwane House in April with our list of demands and gave him adequate time to respond, but he ignored us,” he said.
He said they were “tired of being robbed and neglected” by the municipality. “If Msimanga does not attend to us, we will make Mamelodi and Tshwane ungovernable.”
Mtshweni said that, among other things, community members demanded the cancellation of the municipal debt they owed and wished to start from scratch. They also wanted to pay a flat rate of R40.
Msimanga’s spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said the City was not taking the protest lightly. He said whether or not it was politically motivated was yet to be determined.
“We respect the rights of the protesters to voice the pleas, but we condemn the damaging of infrastructure,” he added.
* At a meeting last night it was decided that the shutdown continues today