Cape Town taxi drivers’ strike marred by violence
Strike called off after MEC intervenes
There was violence across Cape Town on Monday as taxi drivers went on strike. Several people were injured, buses were stoned and some were set alight. By the afternoon, the strike had been called off.
The strike affected a wide area including Khayelitsha, Philippi, Mitchells Plain, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Nyanga, Fisantekraal, Wynberg, Delft and Dunoon, leaving commuters stranded.
Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, said two passengers, one of them pregnant, were injured when a MyCiTi bus was stoned in Khayelitsha.
“One of the commuters was hit in the face by a flying rock and a pregnant commuter fell during the violent attack near the Kuyasa stop.” Both women had been admitted to hospital, he said.
MyCiTi buses were stoned in Dunoon, Mfuleni and Khayelitsha; and one bus was set alight and burnt out on the N2 highway under the Symphony Way bridge, Herron said.
The MEC for social development Albert Fritz said the car of a social worker travelling to Kraaifontein had been stoned. The social worker had been injured and was being treated in hospital, he said.
When GroundUp went to Nyanga, some residents were burning tyres and blocking Govan Mbeki road, stopping cars. Police were present but parked their vehicles about 500 metres away from the protest.
There were no minibus taxis operating and only two Golden Arrow buses when GroundUp was there.
A Delft taxi driver who did not want to be named said drivers had heard about the strike on Friday afternoon. He said it severely affected his income. “For us it’s no work, no pay,” he said. “What happens to us, if things turn violent? Safety first. It’s our lives that are in danger.”
In Wynberg, a group of pupils from Wittebome High School were walking back to Khayelitsha at 2pm. They said they had bus tickets but had been waiting for a bus since noon.
Achmat Dyason, spokesperson for the Provincial Minibus Taxi Task Team, told GroundUp in Wynberg that taxi operators were dissatisfied with the current leaders of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) and did not want the provincial government to recognise them.
He said the strike had been suspended after a meeting with the MEC.
“We are not happy with the process that has begun a year ago about the Santaco leadership. We had agreed that elections have to be free and fair. We have a constitution in place which actually allows the people to hold accountable the leaders they elect, but the outgoing committee is not accountable.”
“Their leadership term expired in March this year and we are operating in a vacuum.”
Dyason said taxi operators no longer wanted the provincial government to consult the leadership of Santaco, which, he said, had become distanced from members. “We reached an agreement with the MEC. He recommended that a retired judge be nominated to look into our grievances. In two weeks the MEC’s office will give us feedback.”
The deputy chairman of Santaco in the Western Cape, Nazeem Abdurahman, said the strike was a “ploy to discredit Santaco leadership on the eve of the November Santaco elections.
He said the leaders of the strike in Cape Town did not want to use proper channels to address their grievances. “Associations that did not operate were scared for their safety and passengers’ safety as well as their gatjies’ safety. This is a volatile industry.”
“We condemn any violence that emanated from this strike and want government to deal with the offenders,” he said.
In a statement, MEC Donald Grant, said he had met the task team and Santaco and the task team had agreed to a mediation process to be facilitated by the Department of Transport and Public Works, and run by someone “with a legal background”. He condemned the violence.
Long day for commuters
By 7:30am commuters in Delft, who had been waiting for taxis, either went home or walked to Unibell and Pentech train stations, a five-kilometre trek from home for some of them.
Other commuters decided to take the bus. One commuter told GroundUp she had waited from 7:30am. By 8:30am people started informing their bosses they would not make it to work or they would be late. Others left for home, with some saying that they needed to get to work because they needed the overtime or had been absent from work and wanted to catch up on their workloads. By 9am, the bus still hadn’t come.
People waiting for the bus heard that a Golden Arrow bus was set alight in another part of Delft. They were worried about the driver of the 8:05am bus to Cape Town, who is a woman. “What about her? Will she be safe?” asked one commuter.
At about 9:50am a MyCiTi bus from Khayelitsha was stoned and set alight.
One of the passengers, Nobesuthu Beya, who was on her way to work in Observatory, said she boarded a MyCiTi bus when she found that the Golden Arrow buses were not working.
“I managed to get a MyCiTi in Ekuphumleni. I noticed that it took a different route out of Khayelitsha, but we ended up on the N2 to town. When we got to the bridge before Borcherd’s Quarry, a number of people were standing on the bridge. As we got closer, they started throwing bricks at the bus,” said Beya.
Beya said the bus driver pulled over and the passengers got out and started running. Two men in balaclavas ran to the bus and set it alight. “I was petrified. The bus burnt quickly,” said Beya.
She and others started walking back to Khayelitsha on the N2, but managed to get a lift in a Metro police van which dropped them in Mew Way. From Mew Way she hitchhiked home.
In Dunoon, police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a crowd that was pelting private cars with stones and setting alight tyres on Potsdam Road and along the N7.
Taxi drivers working for the Dunoon Taxi Association (DTA) prevented scholar transport from reaching the township and prevented MyCiTi bus drivers from leaving the bus depot, leaving commuters stranded.
Hundreds of commuters resorted to walking about five kilometres to catch MyCiTi buses at the Golden Arrow bus terminus, where the buses were making a U-turn avoiding Dunoon.
In Dunoon, tyres were set alight near the taxi rank, while taxi drivers sat in their parked vehicles.
Somali spaza shop owners locked themselves inside their closed shops.
Desmond Nobuntu, DTA spokesman, said the drivers had joined the strike in solidarity with other taxi associations.
He complained about impoundment of taxis, problems with operating permits and problems with the MyCiTi bus service “taking over our business”.
“We currently have more than 100 taxis without permits. People are forced to go to MyCiTi whereas they prefer taxis.”
He said that ten Dunoon taxis had been impounded by the City and that fines ranged from R7,000 for a first offence to R21,000 for the fourth. “This was more reason for us to join the strike,” he said.
There was also a spat between city councillor Khaya Yozi, the member for ward 39, and JP Smith, the City’s Mayco Member for Safety and Security.
Yozi accused the City of refusing to deploy Metro police in Nyanga and Khayelitsha to assist SAPS. Smith said this was false, that he had confirmed that Metro police had been deployed in these areas and had responded to incidents. He indicated that he would be laying a complaint against Yozi in terms of the City’s Code of Conduct of Councillors.
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I received the following text message from my friend about Natasha who works for the both of us on alternative days. Natasha lives in Scottsdene.
"Shame, Natasha's sister said that her and her children is spending the night at her house because Scottsdene is in chaos. There's looting and police are shooting. If things have subsided by tomorrow then Natasha will come to work. It's really bad."