CAPE TOWN, South Africa – An urgent meeting to resolve the ongoing stand-off between taxi drivers and the authorities was held in Cape Town on Monday following the blockade of the N1 during peak hour traffic last week.
The mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said Friday’s roadblock by taxis was because taxi drivers were protesting over the issuing of traffic fines, warrants of arrest for road traffic contraventions and illegally operating minibuses.
He added 132 taxis were impounded throughout the city last week.
At least two buses were also torched. It is not clear whether the two incidents are related, but the bus service said to keep passengers safe due to the taxi strike, they were unable to depart from the terminus.
In a post on Monday, the company thanked its drivers for keeping passengers safe, even while buses were being stoned.
“The City [of Cape Town] cannot allow taxi drivers to take the law into their hands and hold innocent and law-abiding motorists to ransom by taking their frustration to the streets, blocking roads and causing public order disruption as well as putting the lives of residents in danger,” said Smith.
During the past week’s operations, 76 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, and in the southern suburbs, 45 cellphones were confiscated and 4 167 fines were issued – mostly for speeding.
The stop-start disputes over taxis saw much of Dunoon to the north of the city shut down in September over a demand for more operators’ licences to be issued.
The SA National Defence Force also rolled in, but the police said that was for general law enforcement and not due to the taxi strike. The strike ended shortly after that.
Smith said: “The continued disregard for the law in the public transport sector is of grave concern, and so too the attempted resistance to our enforcement operations.”
When approached for comment at the station rank in Cape Town on Monday, the drivers present either did not want to speak to the media, or were catching up on sleep after their early morning shifts.
They indicated that their bosses were in a meeting with the authorities.
Last week, the City announced that renovations at the station rank also meant there was not enough space for all of the taxis to park there during off-peak periods.
Due to complaints about them waiting at District Six, the taxi overflow was asked to wait at a site near the elevated freeway.
Western Cape Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela cleared his diary for Monday to meet Cape Town taxi leaders and representatives of the SA National Taxi Council over the blockade.
“I fully understand the important role of the taxi industry and its contribution to our economy. However, the taxi industry just like everyone else must respect the rule of law,” said Madikizela.
“If anyone breaks the law, law enforcement must make sure those responsible are brought to book, otherwise we will live in a lawless society. Our responsibility as the government is to make sure citizens are transported safely.”
However, he committed himself to work with the taxi industry to ensure the business was “redeemed and respected” and would help set up a meeting with the City because that was where most of the drivers’ concerns lie.
On November 4, he will meet City representatives to deal with outstanding operating licences and other related matters.