Traffic officers have failed to impound a single taxi in Kraaifontein and Brackenfell for the first four months of the year, despite repeated complaints of illegal taxi ranks and taxi route invasions in the area.
This emerged during last week’s Sub-council 2 meeting when councillors grilled Bellville traffic department official Stanley Opperman after he tabled a quarterly traffic report.
Councillors said they had had a lot of complaints from residents and taxi associations about illegal ranks and route invasions and that mounting conflict between taxi operators posed a threat to residents.
Mr Opperman said the Department of Transport was responsible for issuing route applications but added that taxi route invasions were illegal and taxi associations would have to apply for new routes.
He said: “What they are doing is illegal, you cannot take somebody else’s property, it’s illegal.”
Marian Nieuwoudt, ward councillor for Ward 8, said she witnessed taxis parking along the roads in Brackenfell without any drivers in them. However, according to the quarterly report, no illegal parking or stopping offences had been recorded.
DA proportional representative councillor Siseko Mbandezi said: “As long as we have an absence of traffic officers on our roads, there will always be problems. You cannot say they are doing illegal things but you are not acting. It does not make sense.”
EFF proportional representative councillor Cosmos Mabona hoped more patrols from traffic officials could be done in Bloekombos.
“Taxis which belong in Khayelitsha are driving and parking in Bloekombos. This can cause major problems and soon owners will start shooting at one another.”
Grant Twigg, chairperson of Sub-council 2, made reference to an incident where the Bloekombos Wallacedene (Bloewata) Taxi Association called on him and Kraaifontein SAPS for assistance to have taxis which were found invading routes, impounded.
On Thursday May 3, 15 taxis were impounded and taxi owners had to collect their vehicles at the Kraaifontein police station, without conflict or confrontation of other taxi associations.
Mr Twigg said the conflict between taxi operators “is an accident waiting to happen”.
According to Mr Twigg, he learnt from previous sub-council meetings that there were not enough traffic staff members to assist with patrols in the area.
“If you do not have sufficient staff now to deal with the problems which are not that big, when they start shooting at each other, you are going to need more people. I am urging you to start acting now instead of waiting,” he said.
He added that all the councillors were concerned about the safety of residents and requested that Mr Opperman make the department aware that more traffic officers are needed in the area.
“I know you do not have the answers for us. Go and tell your chief we are looking for answers,” said Mr Twigg.
Justice Morabela, chairman of Bloewata Taxi Association, said he had requested that Kraaifontein SAPS and Mr Twigg assist with the taxi impoundments on May 3, because “he did not want a fight”.
He explained that in the past many innocent people had lost their lives as a result of taxi wars and he was against all fights between rival operators.
“We are not trying to provoke a war. This situation here is tense but I have told my members not to get involved in any fights.”
Asked about the illegal taxi rank in Kraaifontein, he said: “I don’t think we have a problem.”
Spokesperson for the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (CODETA), Besuthu Ndungane, refused to answer questions from Northern News and said: “I want to avoid the media in the meantime and I would like to reserve my comment.”
The Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) declined to comment and further calls to the taxi association went unanswered.
Provincial Department of Transport and Public Works spokesperson, Byron la Hoe, said operating licences were issued for a specific route or network of routes and said that it was illegal to operate without a driving licence and to operate on routes other than those authorised by one’s operating licence.
“Any vehicle found to be operating without a valid operating licence is impounded and only released on payment of a release fee,” he said.
He said the City of Cape Town had a specialised Transport Enforcement Unit (TEU) that focuses on the enforcement of operating licences.
The City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, said complaints had been received about illegal operations in the Kraaifontein and Brackenfell areas.
Mr Smith said a taxi association must apply for a rank at the Provincial Regulatory Entity.
“If there are taxis ranking illegally, they can be charged. If they do not have a permit to operate or if they operate contrary to the conditions of the permit, their taxi can be impounded.”
When asked about the reported lack of traffic officers in the area he said: “Many complaints are received across the city. Traffic officers cannot unfortunately be available at all complaint areas at the same time due to resource constraints. However, we will continue to deploy our officers strategically according to the need in the area.”