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Taxi strike’s greatest loss is that of life

British citizen Dr Karhao Teoh who died during the taxi strike. Picture: Facebook

British citizen Dr Karhao Teoh who died during the taxi strike. Picture: Facebook

Published Aug 12, 2023

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Cape Town – Supermarkets, vendors and businesses were hit hard by the week-long taxi strike, but authorities said the greatest loss was that of the five people who died.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) strike, which came to an end on Thursday, was listed as a high-level security threat for UK tourists visiting South Africa following the death of British citizen Dr Karhao Teoh, who was shot and killed in Nyanga.

Others killed during the violence included Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officer Zanikhaya Kwinana, Arthur Mlandeli, Makhosandile Joseph Mkhela and one other person whose name has not been released.

Kwinana, 32, was driving with two colleagues in Miller Road, en route to Bishop Lavis, when suspects opened fire last week.

The strike arose after a new municipal law gave local authorities the power to impound vehicles for violations such as driving without a licence or registration plates.

Sporadic violence erupted in various parts of the city after police began impounding vehicles last week, as angry protesters torched buses and cars and pelted the police with stones.

Santaco tallied a loss of R15 million per day and R120m during the strike.

To date, 155 people have been arrested for various offences, which include public violence, and 398 cases have been registered.

No arrests have been made for the murder of the British doctor and the four other victims.

Premier Alan Winde said the loss of life was the greatest: “We do not have a final costing and what it has cost the economy, but the real cost was loss of life, damage to citizens, a young boy injured when a rock came flying through a window, the education loss while we are trying to catch up.

“The cost of image – we have seen travel warnings being issued for tourism.”

Images flooded social media of a young boy who was stoned in the face while travelling with his family through Crossroads earlier this week.

Santaco Western Cape’s Nceba Enge said the strike and impounding of vehicles had dented their livelihoods to the tune of R15m per day and a total of R120m.

“JP (Smith, Mayco member for safety and security) bragged he had taken 103 vans in Wynberg, and that pained us.

“A total of 488 vans have been repossessed in the last 12 months, and that is only a statistic from one financial institution, and another 309 to be repossessed and this is all due to impoundments.”

Winde and mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis have indicated that they were unable to quantify the economic damage and impact that the strike caused.

On Monday a 14-day taxi task team will be meeting to discuss the “new regulations” and a new chapter on how minibus taxis will operate in the province and what is deemed minor or a major offences, while more than 1 000 taxis remain impounded.

Hill-Lewis has agreed to make recommendations to the public prosecutor on the release of vehicles that were impounded for minor offences.

Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie called for the violent trends to end, stating that when Santaco attended a meeting last Sunday, some members carried weapons.

“Violence is not the way to solve problems. Bringing the city to a standstill should never happen again.

“This matter could have been resolved a week ago. We almost found a way out of it on Sunday. You can’t bring rifles, AK47s, to a meeting during a Netball World Cup.”

Mackenzie was firm that law enforcement officers would crack down on unroadworthy vehicles and drunk drivers who transported schoolchildren.

The British High Commission in South Africa is supporting Dr Teoh’s family.

Winde told the media yesterday that he was in engagements with the various consulates and the high commission after the murder, which had dented Cape Town’s tourism brand.

Cape Town International Airport regional general manager Mark Maclean said the safety of passengers, staff and the public were their top priority and while they had remained operational, flights had been delayed and rescheduled.

The CEO of the South African Tourism Association, David Frost, said the strike had a ripple effect on their industry: “The immediate repercussions of the past days are unquestionably severe. However, we must consider the broader, long-term outlook of the ongoing strike, which has inflicted significant harm upon Cape Town and tarnished South Africa’s reputation.”

The Western Cape Health Department also suffered a blow, with elective surgeries being cancelled, and visits at certain hospitals were also stopped.

The deputy president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Derryn Brigg, said the strike including the impact of Covid-19 had affected the motor industry by 50%. In the case of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association and Fish SA, 80% of the workforce had been affected. In the case of the furniture manufacturing sector, absenteeism of around 60% was reported, while the Cape Town Port had operated with only 60% of its staff.

Nine Golden Arrow buses were damaged and one driver wounded while the company has sought legal action against Santaco and has filed court papers. The company has yet to determine its financial loss, according to spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer.

Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officer Zanikhaya Kwinana

The strike also affected many businesses in the townships, leaving outlets damaged and deserted.

One of the busiest taverns in Samora Machel closed its doors for two days.

Lindelani Gumede from New Bright tavern said: “It was a tough time and we have lost a lot of money. We usually make R20 000 a day.”

Thole Samora Machel Supermarket, the only big supermarket in the area, had to close from Monday until Wednesday.

Bulelani Mthwa, the manager, said that the three days without trading was one of the worst times since their opening. They were not able to get stock because the delivery trucks were blocked from entering the area.

“We have lost about R350 000. We are still short of stock because the trucks have not yet delivered anything since the strike started,” said Mthwa.

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