While the City of Cape Town maintained it was not launching a war on the taxi sector, JP Smith, a member of the mayoral committee for safety and security, has stated that they will “proceed with impounding 25 vehicles for every truck, bus, vehicle, or facility that is burnt or vandalized.”
The City is also seeking an urgent interdict in light of the mayhem and violence that erupted shortly after the Western Cape’s South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) declared a strike.
Thousands of commuters across the province were impacted when Santaco, along with eight regional organizations, convened in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, and decided to go on strike over concerns such as vehicle impoundments.
People waited in huge lines at bus stops and terminals, with some stranded commuters, including students, telling the Cape Times that they stayed in line because they were afraid to ride buses after some were attacked. Some commuters chose to walk home.
During the attacks, integrated police enforcement was deployed on major highways and freeways. According to the City, four buses, three trucks, three-panel vans or bakkies, and an ambulance were all targeted with petrol bombs.
Police spokeswoman Andrè Traut stated that the police department was coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to respond to the taxi strike with high-density operational deployments in the city center and other affected locations in order to maintain law and order.
“Preliminary reports suggest that the N2 in both directions were blocked by taxis, severely affecting peak-time traffic in both directions.
“Several incidents of public violence have been recorded where vehicles were stoned and set alight in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Langa, and along the N2. The situation is being monitored and where required, appropriate action will be taken,” said Traut.
Golden Arrow stated that their bus services in Mfuleni and Khayelitsha were completely inaccessible and could only run from the outside.
“We are trying to operate Nyanga services from Borcherd’s Quarry but the N2 is blocked on both sides. Langa is inaccessible, all Epping services will be severely delayed,” said.
The provincial-wide strike is scheduled to last until next Monday, according to Santaco chairperson Mandla Hermanus.
“During this stay-away, there will be no march or any form of protests that will take place. All operations will stop and we have urged our operators to refrain from any acts of violence and threatening behavior.
“Normal taxi operations will resume on August 10 after which we will make further announcements on the way forward.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, but as an industry, we are left with no other option but to embark on this stay away due to the frivolous impoundment operations, which have had a negative impact on our operators and industry.
“Since the beginning of the year 6 000 taxis have been impounded, which amounts to 1000 taxis a month.”
Smith stated that in the previous six months, City and Provincial Transport MEC Ricardo Mackenzie met with the taxi industry four times as part of the taxi task team to try to avoid a strike.
“During these meetings, there were two issues that the taxi operators raised, the desire for additional operating permits on various routes, which the City and Provincial Government worked with them on in good faith, and unhappiness with the enforcement actions of the City.
“In relation to the latter, I can only say that there are thousands of complaints to the City about the unlawful and reckless conduct of public transport operators. There are complaints about extortion by the industry of other public transport operators and threats, intimidation and violence almost continuously.
“I have been asked by the Mayor to ensure that the violence caused by some in the public transport sector is met with an appropriate response and to remind them that we will proceed with impounding 25 vehicles for every truck, bus, vehicle or facility that is burnt or vandalised,” said Smith.