Taxi bosses, eThekwini Municipality meet to resolve violent protests

2015-05-26 19:51
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GALLERY: Mayhem in Durban as taxi drivers strike

Taxi drivers in Durban slaughtered goats and burnt tyres on a road as part of a strike thought to be in response to recent route permit enforcement by metro police. View pics from the strike here.

Durban - Several hundred taxi drivers and owners ran riot through the Durban city centre on Tuesday, demanding the return of their taxis that had been impounded by the eThekwini metro police.

By late Tuesday afternoon, the leaders of the taxi industry in Durban were locked down in meetings with the eThekwini Municipality’s executive council in a bid to defuse the crisis.

Taxi bosses are complaining that their vehicles are being impounded unfairly by eThekwini metro police. They claim that they are being punished as a result of the backlog at the province’s transport department which cannot process transport permits on time.

The meeting came after the taxi owners and their drivers had marched from King Dinizulu Gardens (Botha Gardens), through Warwick Triangle, down Old Fort Road to the old Durban drive-in on Sylvester Ntuli Road where about 40 of their vehicles were impounded.

During the march bins were overturned, tyres set alight, municipal vehicles stoned and water pipes ripped out or hit with picks. Police followed at a distance and mostly allowed the march to proceed unimpeded.

At King Dinizulu Gardens a municipal bus driver panicked at the sight of the protesters and reversed his vehicle into the cars behind him. In Warwick Triangle the stripped cattle carcasses from a nearby butchery were thrown onto the street.

A man working on the signs of a shop on Johannes Nkosi Street (Alice Street) was left standing on the overhang as the protesters marched off with his ladder.

Also in Johannes Nkosi Street, the body of a baby, thought to be several months old, was discovered in a municipal rubbish bin that was upended by the protesters.

RescueCare spokesperson Garrith Jamieson said paramedics were called to the scene and found the baby lying in the roadway.

“This is the most horrific thing I have ever seen. The body of the child is fairly decomposed and it would appear that the baby is a couple of months old."

Stun grenades and tear gas

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at the start of the march and then again once the marchers had reached the old Durban drive-in. From the old Durban drive-in, attempts by some protesters to use a pick to break two sets of water mains was stopped by police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas. About six people were bundled into a police Nyala.

Apart from facing off against police, attempts by the protesters to arm themselves with bricks and stones were met with resistance from construction workers at a site on Sylvester Ntuli who started throwing bricks back at the protesters.

After officers made it clear they could not release the vehicles, the protesters marched to the Durban City Hall. On the way some residents from the high rise buildings threw bottles filled with water down on to the protesters.

Outside the city hall, refuse on the back of a lorry belonging to the city’s parks department had to be extinguished after it was set alight by the protesters.

Yusuf Khaliva, Santaco's eThekwini secretary, said more than 300 taxis had been taken off the road by metro police.

"Today we are here [at the drive-in]. As you see our vehicles are impounded by metro police. We are talking of numbers in excess of 300 vehicles. So what you are seeing here is the overflow of the main [im]pound," he told journalists at the roadside.

"We spoke to our owners yesterday [Monday] and they... say this is an ongoing thing. They do not have vehicles any more on the road. So they then decided to say... it's best we sit down and talk to them and we get these vehicles released and then we can operate."

'We are shocked about what is happening'

In a statement, James Nxumalo, the city’s mayor, condemned the acts of vandalism committed by the protesters.

“We are shocked about what is happening as this has put the lives of innocent people at risk. We have received reports that some people were injured after vehicles were stoned and such acts of violence will not be tolerated,” said Nxumalo.

Municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole said the eThekwini  metro police were required to uphold the law.

“We can’t take a blanket approach and declare that all cars that have been impounded will be released without understanding the nature of the fine imposed against each vehicle. We will assess each case based on its merit,” said Sithole.

“If you have issues with Metro Police you do not have the right to go out and vandalise Municipal assets. Such actions will not be tolerated by government because if we were to allow such actions we would be promoting anarchy, which is something we will never agree to in eThekwini."

By late afternoon it was not clear what had come of the meeting between the city management ad the taxi bosses.

Read more on:    james nxumalo  |  durban  |  taxi industry  |  transport  |  protests

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