Covid-19: Angry taxi drivers set tyres alight outside police station in Uitenhage
Local police have impounded about 60 informal jikeleza taxis since the lockdown
A pall of black smoke hovered above the police station in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, on Monday afternoon.
Dozens of drivers and owners of informal taxis (jikelezas) said their vehicles had been impounded during Covid-19 lockdown operations and kept in the backyard of the police station for over a week now.
The drivers, who typically charge R10 a trip to transport residents to various destinations in KwaNobuhle, say they were fined between R2,000 and R5,000 for driving without a permit. They dispute whether the police (SAPS) had the right to confiscate their vehicles.
After waiting for three hours outside the police station, the drivers’ anger exploded. They rolled tyres down Mkoko Street and set them alight at a small gate leading to the reception area and in front of the main gate to the office of Station Commander Colonel-Lieutenant Patrick Goeda.
About 15 police officers stormed out of the station and dispersed the drivers who fled in different directions. A police officer shouted: “You are messing with the wrong people!”
Jikeleza driver and owner Oyama Tsotsa said, “They [police] are feeding the government with our money. They say it’s lockdown, but Shoprite and other shops are open. How will people get there to buy groceries and get back home if our vehicles are at the police station?”
Jikeleza owner Sango Madlavu said, “For three days, we have been coming to this police station asking what have we done that our vehicles should be parked at the backyard?”
He said his car was taken from his employee driver on Sunday last weekend. “They issued him with a fine of R2,000 … We are not under the banner of any taxi association. Covid-19 regulations give guidance to taxis only, saying they should operate from 5am to 10am in the morning and from 4pm to 9pm in the afternoon. We also operate at such times.”
“However, police had stopped some of us at 7am, issued a fine of R2,000 or R5,000 and then confiscating our vehicles. They took some of the cars even when there was no passenger, but only the driver inside,” said Madlavu.
Community Policing Forum (CPF) member Siphiwo Vusani said, “I don’t know whether it’s cars that are unroadworthy or they have overloaded or what the charge is all about. We wrote to the station commander several times to give us permission to arrange meetings with jikeleza leadership … But he said he doesn’t want a gathering of any form.”
“I have been inundated with calls from jikeleza drivers saying their vehicles were broken into [while] at the police station.”
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said: “Around 1:30pm today [Monday] it is alleged that a group of about 40 taxi drivers converged in front of KwaNobuhle Police Station, Mkoko Street, KwaNobuhle, to demand the release of their vehicles that were impounded during several lockdown operations. About 60 taxis were impounded in various operations after they were found to be unroadworthy and the drivers were also fined for contravening the Disaster Management Act.”
“Police were forced to use stun grenades to disperse the crowd burning tyres at the entrance of the station. A 28-year-old man has been arrested for public violence and with an additional charge of contravening the Disaster Management Act. There is a strong police presence from other stations and specialised units to assist with patrols and enforce lockdown regulations.”
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