Tension at court hearing for taxi unrest accused

2011-12-09 00:00

A HAMMARSDALE magistrate declined the state’s request yesterday to set bail for 67 taxi owners, drivers, passengers and car washers at R1 000, and instead reduced the amount to R300, before adjourning the case until December 20 for further investigation.

A large crowd of the accuseds’ supporters gathered in the grounds of the magistrate’s court at Hammarsdale yesterday and the atmosphere became very tense.

Their attorney, Riana Moore, confirmed later that despite bail being set by the court, the accused were released “free of charge”. She did not know what had transpired for that to happen, she said.

The accused were arrested at Mpumalanga taxi rank on Wednesday, allegedly after a confrontation between them and police.

When told that the state wanted each of them to pay R1 000 bail, several objected, saying they were unemployed. Some said they were passengers and car washers.

All the accused complained at their arrest and a rumble of discontent greeted the court’s explanation that they are facing charges of public violence for allegedly causing interference with taxi operations, failing to obey a police instruction to disperse and allegedly throwing “bottles and stones” at police.

Magistrate E.S. Miya said that although there were too many accused to question each one separately, he had observed from their response that they “appear to be rejecting or denying” the allegations.

Sapa yesterday quoted provincial Transport Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane saying police received a tip-off that the Mpumalanga District Taxi Association was planning to disrupt operations at the taxi rank, as they believed that some operators were working there illegally.

Police were at the scene to prevent a violent confrontation with the alleged illegal operators.

Some members of the Mpumalanga taxi association who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity said association members are being victimised by the provincial taxi violence task team.

They accused Transport MEC Willies Mchunu of siding with illegal operators in the area.

They confirmed there is an ongoing dispute concerning illegal operators in Mpumalanga, which cannot be resolved, although the association has obtained three court orders to date.

“It is unfair because we pay our taxes and we operate with permits,” said a member.

Ncalane denied that the MEC is taking sides in the dispute.

He said that all parties have to respect the processes to resolve conflict.

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