Durban commuters stranded in taxi protest

2012-05-17 18:49
Durban - Thousands of rush-hour commuters were left stranded in Durban on Thursday night when taxi drivers abandoned their passengers.

Taxi drivers drove their empty vehicles out of the Warwick Market taxi rank into the rubble-strewn streets, leaving behind shouting passengers.

This followed a day of running battles with the police that began with a march to protest against the eThekwini metro police, which taxi drivers claim has been unfairly targeting them.

As police gained control of one protest area, others would erupt elsewhere in the city.

Twelve people had been arrested so far for public violence, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

"The numbers could increase as the protests are taking place in different parts of the city," Colonel Jay Naicker said.

Naicker said the protest started on Thursday morning at the Botanic Gardens. The drivers marched to the city hall to hand over a memorandum.

"The organiser of the march failed to take control of the crowd and the protesters got violent. We had to deploy additional public order police to monitor the situation," he said.

An officer on the scene estimated that at least 1 000 taxi drivers had participated in the strike.

Chaos erupted at Warwick Triangle and around Field Street, where hundreds of commuters were left stranded by the striking taxi drivers.

The road, which was littered with bricks, broken glass and municipal dustbins, was cordoned off and police were monitoring the area.

Metro police officials in about 15 cars monitored the protest on Bram Fischer and KE Masinga roads, until the police arrived.

After the protest cleared on Field Street, other protests started at the Warwick Street market, where the occasional car was hit by a stone.

By late afternoon, police officers from as far afield as Verulam had been deployed in the city. Verulam is about 50km from the centre of Durban.

Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi said that one metro police officer was injured and he believed some passengers in a municipal bus were stoned after when it came under attack by taxi drivers.

He said some municipal bus services were withdrawn from the city centre following the protest. It was not immediately clear if they would resume on Friday morning.

Eugene Hadebe, the chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance, said the strike had not been called by his organisation.

Comment could not immediately be obtained from the KwaZulu-Natal Taxi Council.

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