Taxi associations hand over list of demands after violent Cape protest

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  • Taxi operators have called for the easing of regulations to make it easier to operate.
  • Industry associations marched to the provincial legislature on Thursday to hand over a memorandum of demands.
  • The protest action became violent in some parts of Cape Town, with vehicles torched and stoned.

Taxi operators marched to the provincial legislature in the Cape Town CBD on Thursday to hand over a list of demands, which called for, among others, the scrapping of industry-specific legislation, and making it easier to obtain licences.

Thousands of taxi operators travelled into the city centre on Thursday, causing major traffic congestion on the N2. The protest turned violent in some areas, with three buses set alight and other vehicles stoned.

The march was approved from Hanover Street to the provincial legislature in Wale Street. A convoy of taxis left Khayelitsha and Nyanga on Thursday morning, causing heavy traffic congestion along the N2 as it moved towards the city centre.

Commuters had to get out of their taxis outside the CBD and walk the rest of the way in, as street vendors packed up quickly in case there was trouble.

ROLLING COVERAGE | Taxi operators strike in Cape Town

Taxi associations marched to the premier's office to voice their grievances and to hand over a three page memorandum.

They were unhappy that Premier Alan Winde was not there to fetch the memorandum of grievances himself, and wanted someone more senior that Mark Striker, the chairperson of the Road Transportation Board, who stood waiting, surrounded by public order police with shields and stun grenades at the ready.

The drivers and operators sang that Helen Zille was "misruling" the province, in reference to the DA Federal Council chairperson. The DA is the majority party in the Western Cape legislature. 

While waiting in the heat, the group also sang uMshini wam', a song popularised by former president Jacob Zuma. 

Finally, Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) general secretary Nceba Enge took the megaphone and pleaded with the taxi operators to allow Andre Joemat, head of the corporate service centre in the department of the premier, to accept their memorandum. 

Police keep watch as 1000s of taxi drivers and sup
Thousands of taxi drivers and supporters march to the Western Cape Legislature to hand over a memorandum of demands on Thursday.

He said if nothing was done about their grievances after it was handed to Winde by Joemat, they would be back.

In the memorandum, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and Codeta claimed taxis were unfairly impounded, even when they were under transfer, or when the licences were in the process of being replaced or renewed.

"We demand the City of Cape Town and law enforcement stop impounding our minibus taxis, as this has a negative impact on our livelihood," the memorandum said.

They are the umbrella bodies for the taxi associations that operated in the province, and their affiliates were identifiable by the marshal bibs they wore. 

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The memorandum also called for the amendment of a section of the City's traffic bylaw, which authorised an official to impound vehicles in the interest of the safety of the public, without prior written notice.

"We demand this bylaw be changed as a matter of urgency," the memorandum said.

The taxi operators also called for the scrapping of "Admin Marks".

Admin Marks are placed on the eNaTis records of Western Cape citizens who had an outstanding warrant of arrest for a traffic offence. Warrants of arrest were only issued when a traffic fine was not paid or the vehicle owner had failed to appear in court as directed.

However, this meant that public transport operators with an Admin Mark were not allowed to renew operating licences until their eNaTis records were cleared.

"This is a way of oppressing previously disadvantaged people who are trying to put bread and for their family [sic]," the memorandum stated.

An employee of the Golden Arrow Bus Company works
An employee of the Golden Arrow Bus Company works to be able to tow a bus that was set on fire during a strike by taxi associations, in Nyanga.

The taxi associations also called for operating permits to be finalised for the contentious B97 route. Conflict over the route between Mbekweni in Paarl and Bellville had seen flare-ups of taxi violence, with the Western Cape transport department ultimately closing the taxi route to allow for mediation.

In the memorandum, the taxi associations said permits were not awarded to the taxi industry in the same way they were issued to other public transport sectors, especially for the B97 route.

The associations also urged the provincial government to review the seven-year operating licence and instead issue indefinite permits, as well as automatically issue operating licences when operators purchased a new vehicle.

The taxi operators also requested that law enforcement officers refrain from stopping taxis during peak travelling hours when they were transporting commuters to and from work.

The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said associations had claimed "harassment from enforcement staff" as one of their grievances.

"The City is overrun by complaints about the behaviour of taxi drivers on our roads, across the metropole, on a daily basis. Our staff are duty-bound to enforce the law," he said. 

Employees of the Golden Arrow Bus Company prepare
Employees of the Golden Arrow Bus Company prepare to tow a bus that was set on fire during a strike by taxi associations, in Nyanga.

"We have said it in the past, but it bears repeating - we cannot exempt any group from the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act and the City's bylaws."

He urged the industry to be part of "positive change".

"Instead of heaping misery on law-abiding citizens, these associations should do some introspection on their actions and behaviour, and how they can bring about a positive change. Stoning and petrol-bombing other transport and service vehicles is not the answer," said Smith.

Police

The march was heavily policed by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the police. 

In a statement issued on Thursday, Winde said the incidents of violence were "perpetrated by a particular grouping inside the industry, supported by opportunistic criminals".

He vowed to use "all regulatory and legislative mechanisms" to deal with the violence, including suspending or withdrawing operating licences.

Police had yet to make any arrests for acts of public violence during Thursday's taxi protest, said police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi.

After handing over the memorandum, the taxi operators returned to their vehicles. There was an incident near a bagel shop where an object was thrown at a Blue Dot taxi, with some of the marchers angry that the driver was still operating.

He was immediately surrounded by police so that he could make a U-turn and leave safely, while a woman in the passenger seat gave him a tongue lashing.


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