South Africa

PUBLIC TRANSPORT WARS

City of Cape Town clamps down on attacks against SAPS, municipal staff during violent taxi unrest

City of Cape Town clamps down on attacks against SAPS, municipal staff during violent taxi unrest
This car was set alight near the clinic in Nyanga during Friday's unrest. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

The City of Cape Town is offering up to R100,000 for any information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of anyone involved in attacks against any SAPS member or City of Cape Town employee, or the destruction of any City-owned or related infrastructure in the unrest and violence in Nyanga’s public transport sector.

“You can either continue to tolerate it and by tolerating it, enable it further. Or you can draw a line in the sand and say nobody can be above the law,” said City of Cape Town councillor JP Smith in response to the violence, arson and intimidation during the unrest in Nyanga’s public transport sector over the past two weeks.

Several SA Police Service (SAPS) officers have been shot and vehicles have been set alight.

The City of Cape Town is offering up to R100,000 for any information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of anyone involved in attacks against any SAPS member or City of Cape Town employee, or the destruction of any city-owned or related infrastructure in the unrest and violence in Nyanga’s public transport sector.

On Friday night, 2 September, two offduty SAPS officers were shot and injured in Ikhwezi Park, Khayelitsha, when they were on their way home.

“They were driving a marked police vehicle when they were at the traffic lights and their vehicle was shot at. Both members were injured and taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment,” police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said in a statement.

Smith said the officers, aged 29 and 20, were in intensive care. “I’m quite grateful [they’re alive] because they’re young … They have their whole lives ahead of them.”

Khayelitsha police have opened a case of double attempted murder and the 72-hour Activation Plan has been ordered for the arrest of the suspects, Van Wyk said.

Traffic officer Momolezi Mambumbu was off duty when he was shot and killed in Nyanga on 25 August, said City Traffic Service spokesperson Kevin Jacobs.

Smith said the City of Cape Town was aware of allegations that people had collected funds to contract alleged “hitmen” to target SAPS officers as well as members of city enforcement services.

The purpose of targeting marked SAPS and city vehicles and uniformed officers “is to get the city to recoil, to get the city and the police to cease enforcement actions” and “so that we start calculating the consequences of every enforcement”, Smith said.

The Khayelitsha township in Cape Town. (Photo: EPA-EFE / NIC BOTHMA)

Transport wars

There has been a city clampdown on amaphela (sedan Avanza taxis) operating without permits in recent weeks, with City of Cape Town law enforcement impounding taxis without permits in routine traffic checks.

The seizing of taxis allegedly triggered the unrest and violence, and amaphela taxi drivers demanded their cars be released. At least 12 vehicles were set on fire – Golden Arrow buses as well as city-owned vehicles in Nyanga and Philippi in Cape Town. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Taxi protests, violence rage in Cape Town with seven arrests made”

Smith said the estimated cost of destruction is between R1.5-million and R2.5-million per vehicle. Thirteen suspects had been arrested this week in connection with the public violence, arson and stone-throwing linked to the transport sector unrest, Smith said.

“The sedan taxis [amaphela] have a belief that they should not be subject to the law,” Smith told Daily Maverick. He said city law enforcement officials conduct routine Road Traffic Act enforcement and National Land Transportation enforcement all over Cape Town — from Khayelitsha to  Cape Town central to Claremont. In Nyanga, however, these routine operations are met with retaliation, he said. “When you do it in Nyanga, their response is violent reprisal attacks on staff and vehicles and facilities.” 

Smith said this is the third time this year this has occurred. Along with vehicles being set on fire, children were injured when a school bus was stoned and municipal infrastructure has been damaged, including a fire station and guard hut being set alight.

“Those two officers who are fighting for their lives in ICU – that [City of Cape Town] reward applies to any information related to them or the City officer who was murdered. Or any of the arson attacks on the schools, on the buses or our facilities or on our vehicles,” Smith told Daily Maverick

Smith said the systematic targeting of marked vehicles and buses, seen as competition by the taxi industry, has been going on for a long time. 

“The taxi industry is trying to do to Golden Arrow what they did to the train industry: systematically destroy the competition and drive more passengers into their own vehicles,” said Smith. He said the City had testimony from a man, arrested for burning trains, who said the same thing was now happening in the taxi sector.

The targeting of City and SAPS vehicles and officials has, however, escalated in the recent unrest after amaphela taxis were impounded. 


Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations


Enforcement crossfire

Smith said the city had been informed by individuals in the industry to “watch your back”, and that the transport sector, particularly in Nyanga, would be targeted.

“We don’t think that it involves the minibus taxis much,” Smith said. “Their leadership is quite concerned and they’ve asked for a meeting … and they’re quite concerned because they don’t want to get into the enforcement crossfire.”

Three men arrested last night in an amaphela taxi with three firearms are assumed to be a “roaming hit squad” looking for officers. 

Smith urged the public to come forward if they had any information regarding those involved in these assassinations or future targeted attacks. “We’re willing to pay for it so that we can, preemptively, before they kill anybody, take action against it.”

In a keynote address at the SAPS National Commemoration Day on Sunday, 4 September, President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted civil attacks on police officers, saying:

No society can remain silent when criminals have clearly declared war on the police … Our men and women in blue represent the authority of the state and any attack on them is a direct attack on the state and … the people.

“If criminals bother to read history, they must know that no one has ever defeated the people … Those responsible for police killings who have not yet been arrested must know that wherever they are, they will be found and they will face the full might of the law.” DM

Anyone with information that could assist in investigations should contact the SAPS on 08600 10111 or via the MySAPS app, which can be downloaded here. Or contact the City of Cape Town’s Public Emergency Communication Centre on 107 or 021 480 7700 from a landline. Information will be treated confidentially. 

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