/ 8 August 2023

UPDATED: City of Cape Town is ‘arrogant’, says transport minister over taxi violence

Sindiswe Chikunga
Transport Minister Sindiswe Chikunga. (@Dotransport/Twitter)

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on Tuesday called for the immediate release of all taxis that have been impounded for operating without a licence in the City of Cape Town.

She made the remarks at a media briefing after a marathon meeting with city officials, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the Western Cape government, amid the violent taxi strike in the province. 

The minister commended Premier Alan Winde and the province’s minister for mobility, Ricardo Mackenzie, for their participation in negotiations. 

But Chikunga accused the city of being “arrogant” after it decided not to take part in the negotiations because it had “already issued their conditions and they are not budging”. 

Tensions between the city and the minibus taxi industry reached a boiling point last week when law enforcement operations in the centre resulted in one traffic officer being injured and 15 taxis being impounded. 

The city recently gazetted its traffic by-law, which has been under review since 2019. 

The amended by-law provides for the impounding of vehicles when:

  • Vehicles are involved in reckless or negligent driving or illegal street racing;
  • Where the driver is under the influence of alcohol, has no licence and disobeys an instruction to stop; and
  • If a vehicle is unregistered, has an expired licence disc older than 90 days, is not roadworthy or has been abandoned.

Chikunga said the city’s by-laws are “actually overreaching and extending the legislation that already exists”. 

She claimed the by-laws are in contravention of the national law. 

“We have national laws in place that govern the infringements and penalties dealt with in the contested conditions of operating licences. The national laws are in place to ensure that fair rules are applicable to all citizens

“It can never be that a city will define itself outside the parameters of national laws and implement penalties that are out of sync with these laws,” she said. “We therefore call on the City of Cape Town to respect and uphold national laws as they currently stand.”

Chikunga called on the city to “immediately release without any conditions, all vehicles impounded” under the city’s traffic by-laws and to only keep vehicles impounded in terms of the National Land Transport Act of 2009.

She said the city impounds taxis for changing lanes without using an indicator, and although failing to use an indicator is wrong it does not constitute impoundment under the National Road Traffic Act. 

“Up to 6 000 taxis are impounded on the basis of wrong legislation,” said the minister, adding that the city is not applying its laws to buses and e-hailing services. 

JP Smith, the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the city has, since July 2022 to the end of June 2023, impounded 6 245 taxis, 2 472 e-hailing vehicles and 345 amaphela (which operate in informal settlements) using the National Land Transport Act.

“Public transport vehicles are impounded in terms of legislation, where drivers are unable to produce a valid operating licence, or are found to be operating contrary to the conditions of their operating licence,” Smith told the Mail & Guardian.

Chikunga was due to return to Cape Town on Tuesday afternoon to facilitate further negotiations between Santaco and the Western Cape government. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the city on Tuesday afternoon to assess the effect of the strike, which has resulted in five deaths and left thousands of commuters stranded for transport, including learners and students. 

Cele told journalists the police have made 120 arrests since Thursday for offences including malicious damage to property, public violence and looting.

An integrated operation involving the police, city traffic services and metro police resulted in 53 taxis being impounded on Monday. 

“While law authorities are responding to sporadic incidents of public violence, major roads were not affected on Tuesday,” said Cele.  

The Golden Arrow Bus Service operates only on certain routes because 10 of its buses have been torched since Thursday last week. 

*This story has been updated with comment from Police Minister Bheki Cele.