Taxi operators clash with cops over disputed Route B97 in Cape Town

Four taxi operators were arrested — although one of them was released shortly afterwards — on charges of attempted murder and assault following an altercation between drivers and authorities in Paarl in the Western Cape. 

Officers attached to the South African Police Service’s Wineland cluster and the provincial traffic department squared off against illegal taxi operators on the closed Paarl/Mbekweni Route B97 in the early hours of Monday morning October 18, during which eight taxis were impounded, provincial police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk said.

“Other taxi drivers then blockaded Jan van Riebeeck Road and the entrance to the Drakenstein traffic department. During the impounding of the vehicles it is alleged that a taxi driver attempted to run over a traffic officer who in turn fired several shots at the vehicle, bringing it to a stop,” Van Wyk said.

The taxi driver was arrested and charged with attempted murder, while another was slapped with a charge of assaulting a traffic officer and the third with interfering with law enforcement work.

Western Cape head of transport and public works Daylin Mitchell condemned the attacks on the traffic officers. 

Mitchell has been facilitating talks between the government, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), since June when a violent turf war for operating licences to operate Route B97 between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville took a turn for the worse.

After weeks of consultations, new measures to address the violence were agreed on in early August and the route was closed until further notice.

“While there has subsequently been relative calm between the two taxi associations, processes and joint operations have been put in place to ensure that the agreement signed by the parties is monitored and that the closure is strictly enforced.” Mitchell said after Monday’s attack.

“We will not tolerate illegal operations on this closed route. Nor will we tolerate attacks on our officers, who are doing their jobs in enforcing this closure. The law will be upheld, and those who break it will be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, the arbitration process between Cata and Codeta to determine who has rights to operate on Route B97 and other contested routes in the area is nearing completion. 

Recommendations from the arbitrator are expected in early November.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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