Scores die in Western Cape’s deadly taxi tit-for-tat

Forty-three people were shot dead in the first six months of this year in the Western Cape’s intractable taxi violence, while close to 100 have been arrested and 40 are on court rolls in connection with the conflict. 

Paid hitmen have been shooting drivers, taxi rank marshals and taxi guards in a deadly cycle. Soon there will be another hit, in revenge for the last one — and so it has continued since late last year.

The Western Cape government and South African Police Service have set up a specialised taxi violence task team to prevent, investigate and prosecute taxi-related crimes.

The hope is that a full-blown taxi war reminiscent of the terrible scenes last witnessed in Cape Town during the 1990s can be avoided. 

The feud stems from a decades-old rivalry between the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), and the Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta). 

According to those close to the dispute, the flashpoints include associations poaching drivers from each other, squabbles over the routes allocated by provincial transport authorities and consternation among drivers about how permits are doled out by the associations’ leaders.

Western Cape transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela said that calling the associations around the table to thrash out their difference had not worked so far. 

“It’s worrying, but I’m hopeful that the leaders will come to their senses. We’ve agreed on regular meetings. But we must also pay attention to their concerns when it comes to the integrated public transport network,” Madikizela said.

Taxi organisations have condemned Cape Town’s MyCiti bus system, saying that the integrated public transport system takes commuters away from taxis and channels them to buses.

The city has included taxis in the MyCiti system by making some operators shareholders in its bus routes. This left fewer permits for other taxi operators. In April last year rival taxis clashed in Hout Bay over who should have the remaining permits to operate that route. Five drivers were killed. 

“We’ve had good engagements and people spoke out openly,” Madikizela said. “They were emotional. But we can’t end up with a situation where they end up killing each other. This will kill their business.

“But we don’t want to arrest the small boys, the hitmen. I want to find the people behind the hitmen who are paying for these killings.” 

In addition to 43 murder cases, police have also investigated 20 attempted murders. A total of 97 people have been arrested, with 40 cases on the court roll.

The shootings have been largely concentrated in busy transport nodes such as Belville and Delft, but areas plagued by taxi violence include Paarl, Bloekombos, Ceres, Masiphumelele and Nyanga. Affiliates of either Cata or Codeta are involved.

A researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies, Mikhail Manuel: “In Hout Bay one association was not included in the MyCiti bus project — one benefited and another did not.” 

“Added to this, you have an element of gangsterism that is connected to the taxi industry that does taxi bosses’ bidding. 

“This is all to the detriment of the safety of commuters, who won’t abandon taxis; [they] accept the risks because it’s cheaper [than other transport] and they get picked up and dropped off wherever they want.”

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the Western Cape, the umbrella body for taxi associations countrywide, denounced all violence in the industry. Santaco said it was waiting for Madikizela to confirm the date of a taxi indaba at which the issues, particularly violence, would be discussed.

“We hope the law enforcement agencies will make speedy arrests and that the perpetrators will be,” it said.

Efforts were made to contact Cata and Codeta, but they did not respond.

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Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit is a Reporter, Journalist, and Broadcaster.

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