Eastern Cape taxi operators arm themselves with 270 sjamboks to curb looting

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Taxi operators block the entrance to a mall. (File)
Taxi operators block the entrance to a mall. (File)
PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP
  • A taxi association in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape bought sjamboks for its members so that they can protect the town from looters.
  • The Border Alliance Taxi Association said it did not want the town to experience the unrest that occurred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Teams of taxi drivers and their assistants work day and night to patrol major retail outlets.

The Border Alliance Taxi Association (BATA) in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape is getting ready for battle and has bought 270 sjamboks for its members to use on looters.

The alliance's deputy chairperson, Vuyo Mgudlwa, said BATA spent R75 000 on the weapons to ensure that they could prevent the province from descending into the kind of madness seen during the recent unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The scenes erupted shortly after former president Jacob Zuma began his 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

Due to fears that the riots could spread to other provinces, the Eastern Cape government joined forces with the taxi industry to assist the police in guarding shopping malls.    

Mgudlwa said teams of taxi drivers and their assistants worked day and night to patrol major retail outlets.

He said:

We opted to buy sjamboks because we don't want to use deadly weapons. Sjamboks will not kill anyone. We just want to whip them to keep them away.

"Our organisation further allocated a budget to ensure  that we can purchase fuel for the taxis that will go around during the patrols," Mgudlwa said.

The small town of Ngcobo made headlines in 2018 when five on-duty police men and an off-duty soldier were gunned down.

Mgudlwa said the community was still trying to heal from the scars of that massacre and would not allow another one.

"It is business as usual in Ngcobo, we have protected all the shops in the town against potential looters. Our chairperson, Mr Mcwecwe, and the entire executive met and gave us a green light to purchase the sjamboks," he added.

READ | Taxi associations gear up to protect businesses amid widespread unrest

The protection of malls and supermarkets is in line with a directive from the umbrella body of different taxi associations, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco).

Premier Oscar Mabuyane praised taxi operators for standing up against the looting.

On Monday, Mabuyane met with taxi bosses and directed the mayors of 39 municipalities to work with local taxi associations to coordinate strategies to defend the economy.

In a statement this week, Santaco said the taxi industry would not have passengers if malls, shopping centres and businesses were destroyed and closed.

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