Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said the government was deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict involving the minibus taxi industry and the City of Cape Town.
Chikunga said those who perpetuate criminality must face the full might of the law.
“Government will not tolerate lawlessness, irrespective of who the perpetrator is.
“Our democracy is founded on human rights and the exercise of those rights requires that we respect the rights of others. It can never be acceptable for those who are aggrieved by the actions of the City to blockade roads and undermine the rights of ordinary citizens to travel or access schools, places of work and economic activity,” said the minister.
She said it was equally unacceptable for officers of the law to conduct themselves in a manner that violates the law and the rights of citizens, including the taxi industry.
Chikunga said the government would therefore act decisively, working closely with law enforcement agencies and authorities to uproot this criminality.
“We call on the taxi industry to denounce any form of violence or intimidation by its members. I have personally intervened in efforts to find a lasting solution to the impasse through numerous engagements with the taxi industry under the leadership of Santaco. I have also met with the premier of the Western Cape, the MEC and the City led by the mayor and the MMC,” said Chikunga.
She said the City of Cape Town had introduced conditions of operating licences, which by-laws the taxi industry had expressed reservations on.
“The task team that was established to address the concerns has not made headway, resulting in the City implementing the impounding of vehicles based on these conditions.
“It is an integral part of our legal system that administrative decisions must be based on the principle of legality,” added the minister.
She said there were national laws in place that govern the infringements and penalties dealt with in the contested conditions of operating licences, and that these national laws were in place to ensure that fair rules were applicable to all citizens irrespective of the city or province they reside in.
“This is a constitutional mandate to ensure order and effectiveness of the rule of law. It can never be that a city will define itself outside the parameters of national laws and implement penalties that are out of sync with these laws. We therefore call on the City of Cape Town to respect and uphold national laws as they currently stand.
“To this end, we call on the City to return to the negotiating table to address the areas of disagreement and demonstrate a genuine effort to find a lasting resolution to the current challenges,” she said.
Political party Alliance of Citizens for Change (ACC) in a statement said the ongoing stand-off and subsequent eruption of violent clashes between the taxi operators under the leadership of Santaco and the City of Cape Town Municipality was a serious cause for concern.
The ACC said an independent mediator must be appointed to help ameliorate further tensions and prevent job losses and casualties.
“Whilst the ACC understands the ongoing frustration of the taxi operators pertaining to the biased and unfair treatment by the City of Cape Town for many years, a solution should not be to respond with violence. Equally, the conduct of the metro police and traffic officers needs to be thoroughly investigated in order to avoid the repeat of what we saw through various media platforms of assault on taxi drivers by people who should uphold the rule of law and not break it,” read the statement.
The party said the economy was in dire straits, businesses had lost so much more, jobs were at stake and people were feeling the impact at a very personal level.
“This is something that need leaders who do not take themselves too serious but put the interest of the people first above their own. We need cool heads and solution-driven approach on both sides for this crisis to end,” added the party.