Taxis overstep boundaries

2015-05-05 06:00
A Westlake taxi driver during the protest along Steenberg Road last week. 

PHOTO: 
MONIQUE DUVAL

A Westlake taxi driver during the protest along Steenberg Road last week. PHOTO: MONIQUE DUVAL

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Westlake taxi drivers are calling on provincial government to intervene in a dispute over routes and permits.

This follows a protest in the area last week in which angry taxi drivers took to the street.

Social media reports indicate that Steenberg Road was blocked, causing delays for motorists.

According to a report by Kirstenhof police station additional police officers were deployed on Monday last week at 03:00 following a warning of possible taxi violence.

Police spokesperson Deidre Solomon says officers were deployed to the intersection of Steenberg Road and Westlake Drive at 06:20.

“Upon arrival they were met by approximately fifteen taxis belonging to the Westlake Taxi Association (WTA) and a crowd of about 200 residents who had blockaded the intersection with their taxis and had set ­tyres alight in the middle of it,” she says.

Solomon explains this intersection is the only access to Westlake Business Park and is a vital link between the south peninsula and the southern suburbs.

“As a result, traffic was held up. Police immediately took control of the situation by removing the first few taxis that participated in the illegal blockade. The rest of the vehicles were quickly removed by the owners themselves after threats that their vehicles would be impounded.”

The traffic flow was restored. The burning barricade of tyres was removed by the city’s fire department. Metro police also assisted.

“Police learned that the illegal protest action was orchestrated by the WTA after countless infringements of its taxi routes by taxis operating from Khayelitsha. A quick round-up by Kirstenhof police of all taxis ­operating in the area supported this claim,” she explains.

Seven Khayelitsha taxis were impounded for operating without a valid permit.

In addition, two members of the WTA were arrested for robbery and assault, emanating from the protest.

WTA chairperson Hudson Mulungwana says the protest was a result of months of frustration. He explains drivers from Khayelitsha, Retreat and Capricorn operated in Westlake despite not having the necessary permits. “There are three other associations operating here and the authorities know about it but do nothing. We decided to show them we are not going to put up with it.”

He also says several letters to the department of transport have gone unanswered and the association is calling on provincial government to intervene.

The transport department did not respond to requests for comment.

Mulungwana says the association does not want bloodshed and fears a taxi war.

“We were told that four Khayelitsha drivers were on their way to Westlake with firearms the day after the protest but were arrested. We do fear violence but we cannot keep quiet anymore. The drivers from Vrygrond are just as problematic,” he says.

Solomon could not confirm this. “We do not condone this kind of action by any entity even if there is just cause and will not hesitate to act against anyone who violates the law,” she responds. V

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