Taxi trouble in Bellville

Taxis lined up in De Lille Street in Belrail

Police temporarily closed the Bellville taxi terminus on Wednesday after several shootings there.

According to Bellville police spokesman Captain Jonathan Blankenberg, the shootings began during lockdown and the most recent incident was on the day the rank was closed, although nobody was injured. Two weeks ago, on Friday August 14, two people were wounded at the terminus.

According to Captain Blankenberg, the shootings are the result of taxi operators from various associations feuding over routes.

“The order came to move the taxis out of the terminus and shut down operations after a shooting took place at the Bellville taxi rank and the Paarl taxi rank on Wednesday. This was done to tell those involved with the crimes that the police are on duty and that we will come down hard on them.

“The terminus was closed from just after noon and was reopened just after 5pm, as we did not want to cause an inconvenience for the people who use the taxis.” 

Police have also been keeping a close eye on the Belrail area, where illegal ranks have sprung up.

In May residents complained about a play park that had been turned into a taxi rank (“Illegal taxi rank in Bellville,” Northern News, May 21) and since the start of August more residents have complained about taxis parking in the streets of their suburb, which is about 1km from the terminus.

“My road is filled with taxis in the afternoon,” said a resident who didn’t want to be named for fear of being victimised. “They park right in front of our houses, and at times we cannot even get out or into our driveways. One day, when I came home there was a taxi parked in front of my house, and after lying on my hooter, I eventually got out and saw that the driver was nowhere to be found. Luckily, another driver came to help me, and he eventually got the keys so that he could move it.” 

The cluster of taxis also caused a mess in the neighbourhood, the resident said.

“The taxis start parking in the street after 10am and they are here till about 6pm, and when they leave then there is just piles of litter and other stuff just scattered all over the floor. People have also seen them using the walls and nearby fields as their toilets. It is really making living here unpleasant.” 

People feared even going into their gardens for fear of being caught up in a shooting, the resident said.

The situation in Belrail was “a recipe for disaster”, Captain Blankenberg said. “As a result, we have parked police vehicles keeping an eye on things while we also conduct multiple patrols just to show that there is a police presence.” 

Taxi drivers parking in Belrail didn’t want to speak on record to the Northern News but the general consensus was that they were also fleeing the shootings and they had nowhere else to park.

Felicity Purchase, the mayoral committee member for transport, said the taxis in Belrail had used the old Paint City parking lot before lockdown but that location was now a refugee camp and with taxis running again there simply wasn’t enough parking for them.

“The minibus-taxi operators currently cannot hold their vehicles on the site opposite the Bellville public transport interchange due to insufficient space available there for holding purposes. The City conducted a site inspection of the area on Wednesday, August 19, to ascertain the extent of the existing issues. Discussions are currently under way to finalise possible solutions in addressing the matter.”  

Besuthu Ndungane, spokesman for the Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association, said the organisation was aware of the situations at the terminus and in Belrail, but he gave no further comment. Other taxi associations Northern News approached for comment did not answer calls or return messages.