‘Gov won’t let taxis go’

2015-10-20 06:00
A pupil watches as tyres burn in the road in Vrygrond during a protest last week. 

Michael Roberts

A pupil watches as tyres burn in the road in Vrygrond during a protest last week. PHOTO: Michael Roberts

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“Violent conflict in Vrygrond will not deter law enforcement from carrying out its duties.”

This according to Donald Grant, provincial minister of transport and public works, after the shooting deaths of two people in Vrygrond on Thursday in a week of marked unrest in the area.

“I was saddened to hear of the deaths of two people which is as a result of the violent conflict in the Vrygrond area,” he says.

Grant says the victims are believed to be linked to the minibus taxi industry.

“The killing of people and the violence incited in the area must be condemned in the strongest terms. We cannot allow criminal activity to threaten the safety of people in the area and their ability to get to work and to meet their other commitments,” he says.

A violent protest erupted in the early hours of Thursday, with reports of protesters burning tyres, blockading roads and stoning vehicles.

Disgruntled taxi operators have since levelled various allegations at the City of Cape Town and the provincial government, including claims that they are being specifically targeted by law enforcement officials.

“Our joint operations centre, consisting of the police, provincial traffic, metro police and the City of Cape Town’s traffic services, has been conducting enforcement operations targeted only at illegal operators in the area. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue,” Grant responds.

During a City-led integrated enforcement operation over two days officers impounded 19 taxis in Retreat and Vrygrond. They also arrested six suspects for drunk driving, possession of drugs and malicious damage to City property.

Residents say the violence affects their daily lives and that of their school-going children.

A resident who declined to be identified says she is now scared to use the taxis because she fears another violent episode.

“I’m afraid for my life and those of my children and family. We need transport to get to and from work and our children also use public transport to get to school,” she says.

She hopes that whatever issues there are between taxi associations or drivers they are resolved so that people can use the taxis again.

“We rely on public transport and many people cannot go without it. We use it in our daily lives and do not want to be scared to board a taxi to get to our destinations,” she says.

Irresponsible actionsAnother resident says he is not surprised by the actions of the residents.

“Whenever there is an issue with the taxis, people take matters into their own hands and act irresponsibly. They put many lives at risk and need to understand how their actions affect everyone,” he says.

He also uses public transport, but say he will have to find alternative transport to get to work and back.

“I refuse to use the taxi services until their issues are resolved. And if they are using routes illegally, they must be brought to book and pay up for their actions,” he says.

Grant says his department condemns route invasions and illegal operations.

“There have been discussions within local and provincial government regarding the Vrygrond situation and a number of interceding measures have been agreed upon. One of these interventions is an increase in joint law enforcement operations in and around the Vrygrond area,” he says.

Such operations will be done regularly until residents’ lives return to normal, he says.

Threats of violence will not deter them from fulfilling their obligation to enforce the law, including impounding illegally operating taxis, he says.

“I have also made it clear in the past that should illegal operations and violent conflict continue or escalate, I will strongly consider taking action in terms of the National Land Transport Act, which allows me to take extraordinary measures in a declared area,” Grant says.

These measures include closing routes or ranks, suspending operating licences and suspending taxi associations

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