Teargas used at Durban taxi march
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Durban - Police used teargas and stun grenades on Wednesday during a march in central Durban by the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance (KZNTA).
The 300-strong crowd delivered a memorandum to the city's mayor James Nxumalo at the Durban City hall. He was surrounded by heavily armed security officers.
The alliance members then marched from the hall to Pixley ka Seme Street (formerly West Street).
Stun grenades and teargas were released as police officers chased after groups of taxi drivers taking part in the strike. It was not clear what caused the chaos.
A number of taxi drivers had hammers, sticks, and clubs in their possession.
All the shops in the street were closed.
Colonel Jay Naicker said the march began at 11am. The taxi operators were protesting about routes.
"At this stage the police are monitoring. No property damaged or injuries reported," he said.
Earlier, the eThekwini municipality called for a peaceful march.
"The municipality urges the event organisers to advise their members to refrain from vandalising council property or causing any disturbances during the march," spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said in a statement.
The municipality was aware of the reasons for the KZNTA's march.
These included the issue of operating licences, laws being in English, and the alliance feeling "shut out" by the municipality.
Mthethwa said the province was working on moving the licensing function to the city.
"The city and KZN department of transport engages with the taxi industry on this matter on a regular basis."
The laws being in English was not an issue as officials always explained matters to drivers in their preferred language, she said.
"In instances where a driver indicates that he or she does not understand English, the officers always get another officer to explain to the driver in a language that they understand."
She said drivers who were charged were given the opportunity to go to court and challenge fines in their own language.
"The reality is that the drivers do not pay the admission of guilt 1/8fine 3/8 or go to court to make a representation to challenge the offence they have been charged for, often resulting in them being in contempt of court and warrants of arrest being issued against them."
Mthethwa said claims that the city was shutting the alliance out were "unfounded and a misrepresentation of facts".
On February 14, the municipality signed a memorandum of agreement with the taxi industry, she said.
"The MOA spells out the principles as to how the municipality and the industry will engage with the taxi operators so that they can be part of the Go!Durban project."
The Go!Durban project is the city's own integrated rapid public transport network.
The marchers dispersed by late afternoon, leaving stones and rocks lying around.