Taxi operators playing 'victim card', says City of Cape Town as protests end

Dunoon Taxi Association taxis at a standstill (Jenni Evans, News24)
Dunoon Taxi Association taxis at a standstill (Jenni Evans, News24)

City of Cape Town Safety MMC JP Smith said taxi drivers are playing the "victim card" after he announced on Wednesday that 118 taxis had been impounded for infringements in the past 10 days. 

In a statement issued as the Dunoon Taxi Association (DTA) resumed services following almost a week of taxi-related protests in Dunoon and Joe Slovo, Smith said the City's traffic services had issued more than 1 500 fines in that time.

"The operation started on the 23rd [of September], with taxi operators deeming it fit to respond with violence."

Smith said 22 warrants of arrest were carried out, two driving under the influence or reckless and negligent driving arrests were made, and 1 583 fines were issued for various transgressions.

'[T]o play the victim card is really disingenuous'

"A lot has been said in recent days, particularly claims that the City is unfair toward taxi operators in that area.

"We will reiterate once more, law enforcement happens across the metropole - whether in the public transport sector or other road users.

"So to play the victim card is really disingenuous. Just the outstanding warrants served is an indication of the lawlessness and disregard for the law."

Since last Thursday, main roads in Dunoon and around Joe Slovo were sporadically opened and closed due to protests over taxis being impounded.

Operators became fed up with this, saying they were struggling to get extra licences from the authorities to meet the demand for their services. 

This as the City issued a notice that it intended appointing an interim operator for the MyCiTi N2 Express route via Mitchells Plain, which has been at a standstill due to a contract renewal dispute.

On Friday, a truck was set alight on the N7 passing the Dunoon area, on Saturday a bus was set alight in Freedom Way near Joe Slovo, and on Monday an egg truck was looted and torched in Dunoon.

Stone throwing led to several road closures, including Potsdam Road, between Killarney and Malibongwe roads, and Bosmansdam, Koeberg, Racecourse, Freedom and Umuramba roads as well as Democracy, Freedom and Printers ways. 

GroundUp earlier reported about an incident where an elderly driver arrived at the Milnerton police station "dripping with petrol" after fleeing "angry taxi operators" on Tuesday. 

READ: Elderly motorist doused with petrol in Dunoon taxi protests

Dunoon residents streamed out of the suburb on foot as the roads were either closed due to burning barricades, or as authorities cordoned off main roads as a precaution.

On Tuesday morning, the SA National Defence Force rolled in but the police said this was not due to the protests but to support the police's search for "generators of crime".

SANDF units have been deployed to Cape Town until at least March 2020 to help the police carry out operations in hot spots.

DTA secretary Frank Qotyiwa told News24 that during a community meeting on Tuesday night, taxi operators were urged to resume services because of the impact the suspension of services and associated violent incidents were having on schools, getting to clinics, to work, and day-to-day activities.

The association then announced mini-bus taxis would resume services on Wednesday.

However, to its dismay, 42 of its taxis were impounded on Wednesday - almost one fifth of its fleet - because they did not have operators' licences.

Qotyiwa previously said more operators' licences were needed to properly serve the community and the rapid expansion of housing and light industry in Table View, Sunningdale and on the West Coast. 

Qotyiwa added the association had agreed the city "bought out" routes from taxi operators in a massive programme to introduce the cashless MyCiTi bus service with dedicated lanes as part of an integrated public transport plan.

In terms of this service, the buses are run by vehicle operating companies. It is also meant to be an empowerment initiative for taxi operators as shareholders and taxi staff were retrained as bus drivers and platform marshalls. The roadworks included walking and cycling lanes.

However, Qotyiwa said times have changed since this deal was agreed to in around 2011/2012, and the area itself had grown to the extent that the demand for public transport had grown rapidly.

The DTA is also questioning whether it is time to reassess what it feels are outdated statistics on demand for public transport when considering operators' licences, as the travel patterns emerge around new developments.

However, while the issue simmers, it has left residents in the affected areas on edge and angry, with special Facebook groups set up to share travel and safety information.

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