South Africa


Tension boils over after Cape Town traffic officer shoots taxi driver in wake of new municipal by-law

Tension boils over after Cape Town traffic officer shoots taxi driver in wake of new municipal by-law
Minibus taxis blockade roads around the CBD on 1 August 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa, following clashes between taxi drivers and law enforcement. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Tension between City of Cape Town officials and taxi operators soared after a taxi driver was shot by a traffic official on Wednesday.

A taxi driver was injured after being shot in the leg by a City of Cape Town traffic officer during a scuffle on Wednesday as tension between the two parties reached boiling point. 

The incident happened a day after Cape Town taxi operators clashed with City of Cape Town traffic officials and other law enforcement officers on Tuesday afternoon, leaving thousands of commuters stranded for hours.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Stun grenades, tear gas and gridlock hit Cape Town in taxi clash with officials

According to the mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, just before 9am, two traffic officers conducted a routine stop after a taxi disobeyed a red traffic light at the corner of Jan Smuts Drive and Govan Mbeki Road in Philippi. 

“While attempting to issue a fine, the driver and his passenger became riotous and started assaulting the officers,” Smith said.

“During the scuffle, one of the officers fired two shots, wounding one of the attackers in the leg. Both suspects were detained at Philippi SAPS. The officers sustained some bruises and scratches during the altercation.”

Smith accused taxi operators of using intimidation tactics, which he claimed were well documented, “with numerous examples over the years of staff being attacked in retaliation to operations”.

“I have said it before and will reiterate it once more — we will not bow to intimidation by anyone who thinks that they have a right to break the law and not face the consequences.” 

Nceba Enge, South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) spokesperson in the Western Cape, denied Smith’s version of events and said the wounded driver, who belongs to the Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta), was complying with the directions from the officers when they attacked him. 

“They asked him to produce his driver’s licence and while he was taking it out, one officer slapped him. He retaliated and the other officer took out a firearm and shot at him.” 

Enge said the driver hadn’t opened a case yet as he was still in hospital. 

Disputed by-laws

Fifteen minibus taxis were impounded on Tuesday afternoon by city officials around the CBD. 

Tension between the City of Cape Town and taxi operators has been simmering over a new by-law that gives power to the municipality to impound vehicles rather than fining drivers for offences such as not displaying registration plates, being unlicensed, overloading and the failure to stop when instructed to do so by an officer.

There were no major incidents reported on Wednesday morning, but there were a number of traffic officials, metro police and Public Order Police on the roads and at the Cape Town taxi rank. 

Santaco chairperson Mandla Hermanus said 488 taxi operators have had their vehicles repossessed in the last 12 months as a result of the impoundments.

“As Santaco we condemn all acts of violation by drivers,” he said. 

“We also condemn in the strongest terms the behaviour of law enforcement officers who acted like gangsters and beat up drivers and broke windows of one of the taxis. The brazen thuggery was captured on video. We are yet to hear the City of Cape Town condemn these acts of criminality by their own officers.” 

Hermanus said they were not surprised that the city had failed to condemn its violent officers and that Smith’s plan was not a pragmatic and considered attempt to make the roads safe and ensure efficient public transport.  

“There is no consideration from him for the impact of his actions on the broader society. He is consumed with his own sense of power and privilege and a deep-seated hatred for the taxi industry, which he often brands as thugs, mafia, criminals, etc.” 

There are already signs of possible strike action by the taxi industry in the province. 

A meeting of all the primary taxi associations is scheduled to take place on Thursday morning in Khayelitsha. Hermanus said the aim of the meeting was to come up with a plan of action following the incidents that took place this week.

“We will continue to voice and demonstrate our unhappiness with the approach that the City of Cape Town has taken in dealing with the industry,” he said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “There is no consideration from him for the impact of his actions on the broader society.”

    Erm, you – as usual – forget that ‘broader society’ also includes other motorists who have to put up with the disgraceful – and illegal – driving by your members on a daily basis.

  • Johan Buys says:

    this scheme where an official in his sole discretion can impound a vehicle until eventual trial (you know – the place where evidence and defense arguments are heard by trained legal minds) that may be years away, must be scrapped.

    Imagine it is a company delivery vehicle. CPT imagines it can impound the company property for months for a driving offense by an individual? Are they insane or do they have idiot legal advice?

    Somebody should advise the traffic officials of their potential personal liability.

    This is a bylaw, not national law. Am I supposed to know all the bylaws of every municipality that I drive through?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Just obey the law, then you won’t have to worry about any negative consequences?

      While I take your point, this country is currently held to ransom by drivers knowingly breaking the law, again and again and again.

      This costs lives.
      This costs lives.
      In case the point isn’t clear:

      This costs lives.

      It has to be stopped, before its someone you love who is killed.

    • Michael Prins says:

      The bylaw only changes the effect of the punishment, impounding vehicles instead of fining drivers. If you follow the national law, you will not be affected by it. If your company is sending drivers out in unlicensed vehicles or without number plates they should most definitely impound the vehicle, because it is clear that you do not intend to follow the law. These are the kinds of offences that are not mistakes in the moment, but wilful disregard for the entire safety system.

      While the powers of officers and the potential for abuse will always be there so long as they are given enough authority to make any meaningful difference, the escalation between authorities and taxi drivers will continue as the pressures on the road networks increase. The lack of reliable and affordable public transit forces commuters into taxis which gives them a pseudo-authority which causes them to clash with the actual authorities.

      • Johan Buys says:

        Read the bylaw, the traffic officers can impound your vehicle for what they regard as reckless/negligent driving, it is false narrative to say the bylaw only targets blatantly unroadworthy vehicles. So delivery driver skips a stop light, instead of fining the driver as is law, they impound the company property?? That is absurd and they will get taken to court and lose.

        In theory if you still have a (legal) old number plate that is not affixed the way new ones must be, they can impound your vehicle. Same with offroad vehicles that have extra driving lights. The law prescribes a certain number bulbs max but as it stands now, every LED in the 50 or whatever in your spotlight is counted as a bulb.

        As things stand, an offense like for example rear indicator not working means not roadworthy which would have a fine of Rxyz, now becomes Rxyz plus the towing fee, plus daily pound fees until a court considers the matter or you pay Rxyz fine.

        What grates me is they can send, as happened last week, 15 traffic vehicles and six flatbeds to a roadblock out Northern Suburbs, but they can’t patrol the N2 near airport where drivers run the gauntlet of concrete blocks dropped on their cars.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          Really @johan? if we had to go through everything that is not being done and grates people in this country we would be here for a year.

          The change has to start somewhere.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          We are all going to have to sacrifice if this is ever to improve – accept it; oh and make sure you obey the laws.

          Then you’ll be fine.

          • Johan Buys says:

            Yes Ricky, my vehicles are roadworthy (except unsure about old school number plate on my oldest vehicle).

            We have a problem of scarce resource. I would rather that resource is applied to actual life threatening issues than a broken indicator on your car that you may not even have noticed. So your car goes to the pound but my daughter faces concrete blocks to the airport because CPT (1) stopped Metro buses (2) can’t patrol.

            Priorities matter.

          • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

            @Johan – it is blindingly obvious that everyone would love it if they were given a new Ferrari, but only the stupid would on that basis turn down the gift of a new bakkie.

            I fail to understand how you don’t get that any push for improved rule of law is a good thing and is to be encouraged rather than moaned about.

            Also, while I sympathize with your N2 desire – we would all like it – and I don’t have the stats, I would submit that massively more people die due to unroadworthy vehicles and lawbreaking drivers than do from falling rocks on the N2. Further this is not an either/or thing. Can you say with certainty that you know what the city is / isn’t planning in background around the N2 issue?

        • Theo Butler says:

          Johan, that LED is not a spotlight. As you seem to know the regulations , I suggest you refresh yourself and read sections 157 to 182 wrt lights. It is rather shocking to see the number of vehicles with illegal lights fitted to them

          • Johan Buys says:

            Theo, I said driving lights. Spotlights in theory are things that can be aimed all over and only rescue type vehicles may have. One of the provinces declared anything that is not factory fitted is illegal. Also, they counted every of the elements on a set of LED driving lights as lights, hence breaching the rule of six. Also insists that those extra driving lights must be covered when not in use.

            I just think we have more productive safety issues out there than impounding a vehicle with a broken indicator.

            Anyway, I managed to make it from the platteland to CPT and back without being pounced on today. Also did not see a SINGLE traffic cop in motion in all 124km. They were probably manning roadblocks :/

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      And while this bylaw might be a little over the top, it comes on the back of over 20 years of mini taxis breaking laws consistently without consequences, and alot of violence that is caused by the taxi associations themselves. These are people that have no issues threatening golden arrow bus drivers and destroying city public transport. The fact that the ANC has let these criminals hold us as a country hostage, don’t pay tax, threaten any competition should not stop local government from implementing the law. Everything else has failed till now, this resistance is a good sign that something is finally working and stopping these thugs.

    • andrew farrer says:

      i’m guessing that johan buys owns a taxi or two

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    So far everyone seems to have missed the point – the headline is misleading and sensationalist.

    There was no attempt by the traffic officers to impound the taxi and it is a coincidence.

    As reported the taxi ignored a red light and a fine was being issued.

    The new by-law provides the option to impound vehicles for offences such as not displaying registration plates, being unlicensed, overloading and the failure to stop when instructed to do so by an officer. In this incident the vehicle stopped after which the altercation took place.

  • Change is good sa says:

    Unfortunately the ANC have allowed lawlessness to reign supreme above any kind of community driven municipal bylaws. Mandla Hermanus cannot claim any higher ground here. The taxi industry do not control their own industry. Murder and mayhem have been the order of the day for decades, without any consequence to the innocent lives they have taken over the years in their taxi wars and road accidents. Any decent functioning society would have taxi operators complying with bylaws. Why don’t they comply should be the question. Ask the taxi operators why they do not want to abide by the law, why are taxi’s still unregistered and not road worthy Mr Hermanus. There is no excuse. A taxi industry that is run like a law abiding business, would create more jobs and would make it safer for SA citizens and the drivers, which would make South Africa a more prosperous country for all. Taxi bosses and the ANC are to answer here.
    Look at the KZN taxi industry, it is being run like a business, although I have to add it is not perfect, but much better than the mafia mayhem in the CT industry, Mr Hermanus. You criticise JP Smith obsession, he should be obsessed, as should you be, to clean up the mayhem. Put your ego aside and work together to make this safer for the commuters. If you want to be remembered by society in a good way, now is your chance.

  • Steven D says:

    Dear all taxi drivers, owners and operators: it’s quite simple – obey the law, drive properly, make sure your mobile coffins are safe and you won’t have any trouble with the CoCT’s cops.

  • Louise Wilkins says:


  • Pauline Mutlow says:

    Taxis drivers have their own rules and rest of the citizens have to obey the road rules

  • Bill Gild says:

    Savages running the country.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    A body camera on the cops would be useful. If they were just doing their duty as they say and then were assaulted the evidence would be there for all to see. Unfortunately it’s now a case of the taxi driver’s word against the traffic officer and no doubt any wrongdoing will go unpunished due to lack of evidence.

  • Brendan Murray says:

    I have literally had to stop listening to articles on this platform because of this issue. Also iPhone. It’s egregious. Have contacted dm about it but they seem unable to resolve the issue. It’s having to listen twice per article that really gets me.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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