Taxi strike turns violent in Bloekombos

Taxi protests turned violent in Bloekombos on Thursday morning.

At least three vehicles were set alight and a bus stoned on Maroela Road, in Bloekombos, as the strike by two major Cape taxi associations took a violent turn.

Taxi owners and drivers affiliated to the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) on Thursday March 24 stopped work to protest over what they call ill-treatment from the City and provincial traffic authorities. They blocked the N2 by marching on the national road to hand over a memorandum to the Premier’s office.

In a statement, Premier Alan Winde condemned the violence and threatened to pull or suspend operating licences.

IOL reports that the protest became violent in Nyanga, which has one of the city’s busiest taxi ranks, where three Golden Arrow buses were set alight.

Earlier this week, the two associations notified passengers of their protest.

The taxi industry’s gripes relate to the impounding of taxis and the fines that come with releasing impounded taxis, among other things.

Provincial police spokesman Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi confirmed that a bus was stoned and three trucks and a Quantum taxi set alight in Bloekombos.

“Police and other law enforcement agencies have been deployed in the areas and on the route to monitor the protesters,” Warrant Officer Swartbooi said.

Mr Winde said the violence impacted poor communities and deserved condemnation in the strongest terms.

“I think of the many people who are unable to get to work and put food on the table, as we face the second pandemic of joblessness,” Mr Winde said.

“I also think of the learners who are unable to get to school. We cannot accept these violent acts, and I call on the SAPS to ensure that law is upheld and that our residents are kept safe. All those responsible for this violence must be arrested and prosecuted.”

He called on police to restore order and the taxi industry’s leaders to “bring rogue members to order”.

Mr Winde said criminal elements in the taxi industry used the protest to commit crimes.

“I will use all regulatory and legislative mechanisms to deal with this issue, which include suspending or even withdrawing operating licences and holding associations accountable for the actions,” Mr Winde said.

“I will not stand by and allow a handful of opportunists to hold the commuters of this province hostage. I have said it before and I maintain that illegal and criminal acts will not be tolerated.”

Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said he had been informed of the planned march to hand over a memorandum listing the taxi industry’s grievances and demands.

“The leadership of the taxi industry made commitments that this would be a peaceful protest and that it would not disrupt the operations of other public transport providers. This commitment has not been honoured by elements within the industry,” Mr Mitchell said.

He said he had heard about attacks on Golden Arrow buses in Nyanga, infrastructure being set alight and reports of damage to private property.

He said the provincial government condemned the violent acts.

“I have been informed of injuries to people of this city. This is unacceptable,” Mr Mitchell said.

“I have been informed that other public transport providers are considering suspending their operations in order to protect property, assets and the lives of staff and commuters.”