Taxis grounded as drivers' protest in Pretoria continues unabated

By JAMES MAHLOKWANE Time of article published Sep 3, 2019

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Pretoria - The taxi operators who burnt the shacks of foreign nationals in Marabastad and shut down streets in the CBD on Monday broke an agreement between the City of Tshwane and taxi associations.

MMC for Community Safety and Emergency Services Karen Meyer described the action of taxi operators who disrupted normal life in the city as disappointing.

“I sat around the table with MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila-Lynn Senkubuge, the Tshwane Metro Police Department and representatives of taxi associations and said we cannot resort to violence every time there is a problem,” Meyer said.

“We further determined that we would meet at least once a month as a task team to address all the situations and bring in other stakeholders if needs be.

“However, what is seriously worrying is that the guys who are doing this, according to the taxi associations we’ve been talking to the whole day, are acting on their own accord. What is of concern to us is that it’s the vehicles of the taxi associations and owners that were used.”

Meyer said the City asked taxi associations to put their foot down and control their drivers because the situation was getting out of hand.

“What is even more worrying is the fact that our national government is extremely quiet on the foreigners' situation - the xenophobia situation. If we do not address it from a national perspective, we can expect this thing on a regular basis.”

In Johannesburg yesterday there was chaos as the shops of foreigners in the Turffontein area were looted and burnt.

Tshwane taxi operators, who buried driver Jabulani Baloyi at the weekend, said they would intensify demonstrations and threatened to shut down Pretoria today. They declared that no taxi would be allowed to carry passengers, and early this morning there was no sign of taxis in the CBD with workers battling to get to work.

As a forerunner, yesterday protestors forced taxis to stop and offloaded passengers along several routes. They shouted at the taxi drivers who were carrying on working while they were working.

Onlookers who tried to record the incidents were slapped and their phones taken from them. A man was hit so hard near Tshwane House that he was rendered unconscious.

A cameraman with eNCA came close to being attacked as he recorded footage of a man being attacked in Paul Kruger Street. They took him to a Quantum and made him delete the “incriminating evidence” they did not want their actions aired on national television.

Late in the afternoon, the drivers turned to Marabastad, where they burnt the shacks of people they accused of using nyaope and supporting drug dealers.

The residents of the area said they were mostly Zimbabwean nationals who made a living begging and made it clear that none of them were nyaope addicts.

They said the nyaope addicts lived in shacks on the other side from theirs, but the taxi drivers were having none of this. Sarafina Moyo and Thomas Sithole said they lost their documentation, clothes, medication and school uniforms for their children.

Tshwane Metro Police Department spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said they were not panicking about protests planned for today. “We are saying it will be business as usual and motorists and commuters must go to work and we will continue to protect them. 

"The only inconvenience could be if they block some routes, but we will ensure those roads are unblocked and traffic can flow.”

The unrest started a week ago near Bloed Street Mall, where taxi drivers were carrying out a campaign against drugs. They had a confrontation with suspected dealers and Baloyi was shot and killed during that.

The following day they took to the streets, unhappy about Baloyi’s death, and have not backed down since. In the days that followed, several businesses operated by foreign nationals were burnt to the ground and others looted.

Meanwhile, in Joburg a metro police officer was injured yesterday while about 70 people have been arrested for public violence which started in Jeppestown on Sunday following a fire that broke out in a building, killing three people.

This escalated into a looting spree. Police Minister Bheki Cele described the riots as a national emergency.

“We need to stop the disruption, we need to stop the looting. This is pure criminality. There is nothing that has sparked any form of conflict between South Africans and foreign nationals. We are dealing with criminality rather than xenophobia,” Cele said.

Cele said more officers would be deployed to keep the peace.

African Diaspora Forum spokesperson Dr Vusimuzi Sibanda said the government wasn’t doing enough to protect foreign nationals.

“The attacks are unacceptable. We are very disappointed with the government because it seems like they are not serious about protecting us (migrants),” Sibanda said.

Pretoria News

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