/ 2 August 2023

Cape Town tense as taxis and cops clash

Photo supplied

Renewed tension between the City of Cape Town and the minibus taxi industry erupted during enforcement operations in the central business district on Tuesday afternoon, resulting in one traffic officer being injured and 15 public transport vehicles being impounded. 

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) also withdrew its participation from the minibus taxi task team — an initiative aimed at addressing permit barriers in the Western Cape. 

The city and provincial government expressed their disappointment over the withdrawal in a joint statement on Wednesday morning. 

“We are deeply disappointed that Santaco-WC resolved to suspend its participation in the minibus taxi task team, citing two reasons: firstly, the ‘increase and continuous impoundments of vehicles’, and secondly, ‘lack of progress on issues tabled’,” the statement said. 

Santaco in the Western Cape has called for an urgent meeting with executive committees, stakeholders and political parties for Thursday. 

An invitation to the meeting was not extended to the province’s governing Democratic Alliance, said the taxi council’s deputy chair, Nceba Enge. “We don’t want them in that meeting at all.” 

After local law enforcement officers impounded several taxis on Tuesday afternoon, taxi drivers blocked the exit route of the busy inner-city taxi rank, preventing other drivers from entering during peak traffic hours. 

The situation grew more volatile after a traffic officer was assaulted by people in the crowd and gunshots were fired. The public order policing unit was deployed to the area and was joined by the metro police’s tactical response unit. 

“Officers came under fire, and responded using stun grenades and tear gas,” the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, confirmed in a statement late on Tuesday evening. 

He dismissed claims accusing the city of brutality during the operation. 

Several suspects were detained after the police had to smash a taxi window to remove occupants who had locked themselves in the taxi. 

“The city will not be intimidated by those in the taxi industry who react violently to any attempts to enforce national legislation,” Smith said, adding that no one was above the law. 

“As we indicated once again recently, the city is inundated with complaints pertaining to public transport operators who do not adhere to the rules of the road — both from the public, but also legitimate operators who are bullied and intimidated by illegal operators.”

The city and taxi associations have over the past years held multiple talks to prevent taxi violence and protests in the Western Cape, where the stoning and the burning of public transport buses and service delivery trucks are more often than not the result of law enforcement clamping down on unlicensed taxi drivers and unroadworthy vehicles.

In 2021, consultations between the national and provincial government, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association delivered negative outcomes. The ongoing taxi violence and unsuccessful meetings at that time resulted in the closure of the route between Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville, Route B97, for months.