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Vrygrond residents accuse taxi association of inciting violence

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Police clash with protesters

Photo of police vans and people walking
Residents were left without taxi transport and had to walk to Vrygrond and Capricorn. Photo: Tariro Washinyira
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Residents of Capricorn and Vrygrond are accusing the CODETA Vrygrond Taxi Association of inciting violence. Late Tuesday afternoon, police and protesters clashed on the corner of Prince George Road and Vrygrond Avenue. It is not the first time these accusations have been made.

The demonstrations started on Monday after the City of Cape Town traffic department impounded a number of the association’s taxis for operating without the necessary route licences. Tensions between authorities and the Vrygrond Taxi Association have been going on for several years over licenses to operate the route.

Constable Carol Strauss of the South African Police Service (SAPS) said: “Three suspects aged between 18 and 28 have been arrested on charges of public violence and robbery during [Monday’s] protest action in Vrygrond after a chain store was looted. … Sporadic incidents of unrest are still occurring.”

GroundUp saw about 60 people, including children, throwing stones at law enforcement officers who had blocked the entrance of Prince George Road with four SAPS vehicles and two Metro police cars. Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.

Retreat Taxi Association vehicles dropped their passengers at the blocked entrance from where commuters would have to walk to Vrygrond and Capricorn. But some women with children on their backs and elderly people were too scared to walk up Vrygrond Avenue where protesters were burning tyres and throwing stones at the police.

A resident who braved Vrygrond Avenue said, the demonstrators were “chasing people who are refusing to join them”.

Many children did not attend school and some missed examinations. Penny Way of the Vrygrond Early Childhood Development forum and the owner of Butterfly Way Educare said many preschools as well as some schools opened in the morning but closed before lunch. She said: “A parent from another crèche was teargassed. Innocent poor people are being hurt. The protesters tried to attack and burn Capricorn primary school.” (GroundUp could not confirm this.)

There was a strong police presence with four police vehicles parked inside Capricorn Square shopping centre, where a Pick n Pay liquor store was looted on Monday. An armed security officer was guarding the entrance.

Chairperson of CODETA Vrygrond Taxi Association Makhosandile Tumana, distanced the association from the violence. “The protests have got nothing to do with our taxis’ impounding. Capricorn people are protesting for other things and a shortage of taxis. Ten licenced vehicles for the routes which we do not have licence for is not enough for four thousand people going to work daily. We have taken the matter to the court hence we do not see any reason we should fight. It was supposed to be heard on 3 May, but the City Council asked it to be postponed to September,” he said.

A protester who refused to be named said: “We are demanding a hospital … There is no clinic here. Every time we fall sick, we go to Seawinds. We need a police station. The nearest police station is Muizenberg … We are also demanding a high school, an old age home, subsidised houses, transport to ferry children to school and the government to sort out the taxi issue properly.”

Eddie Andrews, the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Area South, said: “I met with the forum in Vrygrond on Wednesday 14 June 2017. I informed the community that many of the issues raised fall within the competencies and ambit of the Western Cape [government].” He said the City had notified the Premier’s office.

Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works Donald Grant, said: “The Provincial Transport Registrar has instituted disciplinary action against the Vrygrond Taxi Association (VTA) for contravening the code of conduct for taxi associations by taking on unregistered and unlicensed members, flooding routes with illegal operators, and preventing legal operators from Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) from entering certain areas.”

“VTA has used every opportunity to delay, frustrate and hinder the Registrar’s process, with their latest attempt, in the last two week, being a request for a High Court order to stop the process. This attempt was unsuccessful, with the High Court dismissing VTA’s case and the Department securing a cost order against the association.”

Dube also warned RTA members not to take the law into their own hands or their operating licences would be either cancelled or suspended.

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TOPICS:  Transport

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Letters

Dear Editor

Thanks for this article. The VTA disclaimer of responsibility for the "protests" is laughable. The timing surely is suspicious. Add to that the fact that one of the would-be community leaders involved in the protest is also a taxi owner.

We have seen this mobilisation in favour of the VTA before. Legitimate demands (Vrygrond *does need* a clinic) are used to cover behaviour like looting of shops and assault on Vrygrond residents. This builds disunity in a community that is already deeply divided. Vrygrond needs leaders who can build partnerships for development (including using the land kept empty between Vrygrond and Marina da Gama - a rather suspicious "buffer zone" hiding poverty from those behind the Marina's white walls) and organise for the long haul, building space for businesses, a clinic, moving Muizenberg police station to nearby, etc.

The mis-named VTA (which is actually a johnny-come-lately to Vrygrond, set up a few years ago, in part by the late Jeremiah Thile) has since its inception muddied the line between its business and the needs of Vrygrond's residents. The state on all its levels has allowed this situation to simmer for years, and polices "at the edge": roads leading into Vrygrond were blocked and policed but within the area residents were not protected. A task team is needed uniting all levels of government so this ridiculous buck passing can end, but we know no such thing will happen so long as opportunist act as "spoilers".