Damages during taxi protest estimated at over R4-million

The department of transport and public works in the Western Cape has threatened to close taxi routes and ranks and suspend operating licences after a protest last week turned violent and caused damages exceeding R4-million. 

Cars were stoned, buses petrol bombed, vehicles hijacked, civilians attacked and incidents of looting took place during the protest on Thursday last week. 

The Golden Arrow Bus Service recorded damages of R3.5-million. Damages to private vehicles were reported to be in the vicinity of R380 000, although this amount is likely to increase once all owners are contacted. The City of Cape Town recorded losses of at least R275 000, it has said. 

Mayoral committee member for community safety and security, JP Smith, said in a statement on Sunday that the preliminary assessment did not take into account economic losses or medical care that motorists or bystanders had to undergo after being injured. 

Those injured include three traffic officers who were attacked on the N2 when protestors almost brought traffic to a standstill. 

“The City condemns these actions in the strongest terms and we call on SAPS to investigate these acts and bring those responsible to book,” said Smith.

“It cannot be the case that those behind violent protests are let off the hook time and again. The City has in the past instituted civil claims against protest organisers and we will do everything possible to do the same in this instance.”

The demonstration was organised by the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) and Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and was supposed to be peaceful.

On Thursday, Codeta spokesperson Lesley Siphukela said the associations had applied for a “peaceful march” and that Codeta was unaware of any violence having taken place. 

Response by provincial government

On Friday, public transport had returned to normal, but transport MEC Daylin Mitchell warned that his office would not allow the violence and damages to “go unchallenged”. 

He said action had to be taken against perpetrators who put the public transport sector at risk, which would include declaring the Nyanga taxi rank being declared “high risk” for violence. 

Mitchell said he would invoke his authority in terms of section 91 of the National Land Transport Act (NLTA) to close certain routes and ranks and suspend taxi operating licences in affected areas. 

Nyanga is a known hotspot for taxi violence, with similar disruptions taking place almost two weeks ago. It carried over into the latest flare-up, with a Golden Arrow bus being bombed.  

“I will not hesitate to take the actions that are required to stabilise the situation and to guarantee passenger safety,” said Mitchell, adding that additional transport would be put in place for commuters. 

Additionally, the City of Cape Town, in agreement with the provincial department, would suspend its special regulatory process for all Cata and Codeta-affiliated associations should the violence continue. The suspension will result in no new operating licences being issued to members of the mentioned associations.

Cata and Codeta handed over a letter of grievance to Premier Alan Winde during Thursday’s demonstration.  

Among other gripes, the associations claim the provincial government approved operating licences for Golden Arrow but withheld permits for the taxi industry. 

“We view this as the practice of apartheid government, where favours were provided to certain groups and left other groups crying and bleeding,” according to the letter of grievances.

Mitchell acknowledged the letter addressed to the provincial government and said he would consider its contents.

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

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