Blocked highways, roads, violence order of day as taxi protest brings Tshwaneto a halt
Pretoria - The effects of the strike by members of the National Taxi Alliance yesterday were felt in most parts of Tshwane.
Highways and roads were blocked, and there were reports of violence and hijacking. Motorists and commuters were left stranded and unable to get to work or schools.
The Department of Basic Education urged parents to trust the contingency plans put in place in Gauteng to mitigate the impact of the national strike.
Minister Angie Motshekga said they had been well aware of the strike and put in place the necessary measures to ensure pupils were given every opportunity to make it to exam centres.
The A Re Yeng bus rapid transit service had to be withdrawn early in the morning after a bus was hijacked, allegedly by striking taxi operators, in Orchards.
MMC for Roads and Transport Dikeledi Selowa said that after a careful assessment, it was decided to suspend the bus services as the strike had been characterised by violence, intimidation and threats directed at drivers and commuters. The service was expected to resume today.
According to the City, a female bus driver was held captive by a group. She was then released. Another driver was assaulted in front of the C De Wet depot. “Halting the service was a very difficult decision to take…
“However, we had to take into consideration the safety of our drivers as well as that of our valued commuters, and the protection of our assets.”
In a video online taken by a commuter, taxi drivers could be heard demanding that passengers get off the bus. But they had urged a pupil to remain on it to be taken to school.
Another victim of the violence was Petrie Vogel, the National Press Club secretary, who was attacked while driving in Waterkloof Ridge after dropping her child off at Hoërskool Menlopark.
Taxi drivers who were blocking Eridanus Road threatened her, jumped on her car and tried to get into the car.
In video footage, a man, identified by the local community as a taxi marshal, can be seen smashing her windscreen with a truncheon as she sits trapped in her car.
She was unhurt but traumatised.
Reports emerged on social media of others who were also victims of violence.
“This type of unprovoked attack on ordinary citizens during a protest is unacceptable and we urge the police to take steps to identify and arrest the perpetrators,” National Press Club chairperson Val Boje said.
Residents of Mamelodi said most could not make it to work. Some said they were shocked at the timing of the strike, considering that pupils were writing exams.
In the eastern region of the city, Grade 11 and Grade 12 pupils driving with their parents on Lynnwood Road were subjected to intimidation while on their way to school.
“Learners who were going to write exams were subjected to intimidation in their parent’s cars, and some couldn’t get to school to write exams,” ward councillor Siobhan Muller said.
At Denneboom taxi rank in the morning commuters were standing around helplessly, not knowing how they would get to work.
Right in front of them were taxi drivers sitting inside their vehicles, waiting to leave to join their colleagues in the CBD for the march.
Sello Maluleka, who works as a hairdresser in Silverton, said he was already counting his income loss.
“I had a client’s appointment at 9am, but could not make it. My daughter had called me about this (the strike) the previous night, but I didn’t believe her.”
Thabang Monyamane was able to get a lift from Phomolong to Mamelodi West, only to find there were no taxis at the rank.
“Our jobs are on the line. These people are really unfair. People have lost jobs in the pandemic; we cannot risk more now.”
Tshwane Metro Police Department officers had their hands full from early in the morning as taxi drivers blocked roads leading into the inner city.
Roads in Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Ga-Rankuwa were blocked, but the officers dealt with the situation, department spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said.