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Chaos, arson and threats of legal action after Cape taxi drivers begin strike

Chaos, arson and threats of legal action after Cape taxi drivers begin strike
Commuters scramble to enter a bus at Cape Town bus station on Thursday. The taxi strike left thousands of commuters stranded in the city. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Elderly people fell, buses were torched and traders had to pack up their day’s stock as commuters’ journey home turned chaotic on Thursday afternoon when a taxi drivers’ strike began in the Western Cape.

Thousands of commuters had to scramble for alternate forms of transport on Thursday afternoon after taxi associations under the umbrella of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the Western Cape went on strike over what they called “frivolous impoundment operations by government”.

The strike will last until 9 August, Santaco said.

Taxi drivers are unhappy with the impounding of their vehicles and with several of the City of Cape Town’s traffic by-laws, which they believe are targeting them.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi strike begins immediately across Western Cape, ranks emptied over by-law clash with City


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Commuters had little warning of the strike. At 1.50pm at the Cape Town Station taxi rank, taxi drivers were told they had to stop operating. Taxis left the rank at 2pm, with passengers scrambling into some, while others left without any passengers.

By 4pm, there were no more taxis at the rank and commuters rushed to a nearby bus station to get buses home. In the rush, Daily Maverick saw a child being passed into one of the buses.

cape taxi strike

Commuters help push a child through a bus window for a space in the bus. Buses were overloaded because of the Cape Town taxi strike on Thursday that left thousands of commuters stranded in the city. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

A woman got stuck in a bus door and it took many attempts to pull her back into the vehicle. One bus was so full that the door could not close, and the driver had to physically eject some passengers. Learners in school uniform were left stranded and one commuter asked Daily Maverick for money to get home.

Vendor Zakes Shabangu, who lives in Mfuleni near Khayelitsha, said, “I’m stranded, and my family’s daily bread and my stock [a trolley of refreshments] are all I have at the moment. I need some time to heal from this.”

‘I’m tired’

The taxi rank was in disarray as people tried to get home. One woman, from Delft, fell to the ground as she tried to board the last taxi to the area.

Nontuthuzelo Billy stood against a pole. She was trying to get home to Khayelitsha.

cape taxi strike

Tension between the City of Cape Town and taxi operators left thousands stranded at the Cape Town bus station as taxi operators went on strike on Thursday, 3 August 2023. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

“I’m tired,” she said. “I’m tired of fighting. I have been here since half past two. I had been in a queue to Khayelitsha but I cannot stand all of that fighting. I am worried about my children who are home alone.”

Other modes of transport affected

At about 4pm, traffic in the Cape Town CBD ground to a halt and Uber prices began surging.

Bus company Golden Arrow had asked for patience as traffic caused delays on all major routes. In Mfuleni, Langa and Khayelitsha, the bus service was inaccessible. In Nyanga, bus operations began at the police station. Company spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer confirmed two Golden Arrow buses had been set alight.


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Threat of legal action

The City of Cape Town says it will not hesitate to lay a civil claim for any damages to infrastructure resulting from the strike.

“While we respect the right to peaceful protest, violence and intimidation have no place in Cape Town,” Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said.

“City authorities are on high alert and we will not accept the blockading of routes and violent intimidation of peaceful commuters and non-striking transport operators.”

cape taxi strike

Commuters surround a bus at the Cape Town Bus Station on Thursday, trying to get home after taxi operators went on strike. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde was more stern: “Unfortunately, we are currently investigating legal action against the minibus taxi associations to interdict the violence associated with the strike. It is wholly unacceptable.”

City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith gave a warning to the taxi industry: “I have been asked by the mayor to ensure that the violence caused by some in the public transport sector is met with an appropriate response and to remind them that we will proceed with impounding 25 vehicles for every truck, bus, vehicle or facility that is burnt or vandalised.” DM

Daily Maverick reporters Suné Payne, Jim Mohlala, Chuma Nontsele and Samane Jnr Marks contributed to this report.

This is a developing story and will be updated.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bill Gild says:

    “City authorities are on high alert and we will not accept the blockading of routes and violent intimidation of peaceful commuters and non-striking transport operators.”

    But you are powerless. The taxi owners know it; the poor commuters are aware of it; and we continue drifting toward mayhem.

    Direct foerign investment will further shrivel, and the exodus of young, skilled South Africans will continue unabated.

    • Jennifer D says:

      So what are you suggesting – let taxi drivers violate rules and carry on their bullying and illegal tactics on the roads? It is time to start implementing law and order
      – 100% behind the Mayor of Cape Town!

  • Jeremy Collins says:

    Ah yes, JP Smith, the master of diplomacy, once again shoulder-charging into a seething socioeconomic melee that he helped to create. If they’re angry about that thing you did, do it again but 25x worse. His press release appeared within an hour of the strike, remarkably free of any mention of his role in this monumental mess

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    In order to help the city win this – and make no mistake it is in everyones best interests – we all need to do whatever we can to help the vulnerable most affected by this.

    Pay your cleaner, gardener, security person and let them stay home if they can’t get to work. Give lifts if you can. Anything will help!

    If we want a working South Africa we all need to be part of the solution.

  • Niki Moore says:

    Please, people in Cape Town, step up and help out, so that the taxi industry learns, finally, that they cannot operate with impunity in Cape Town. It just might be the first nail in the coffin of the lawlessness and criminality associated with the taxi industry in South Africa, and we will all benefit in the long run.

  • Ockert Fourie says:

    So glad to hear the response from the Mayor, Premier and JP Smith. Do not yield to these thugs.
    There is only one way and that is the legal way, so keep on impounding their vehicles for transgressions. And why must all strikes always go with vandalism and destruction. Move quicker to fix our train network so that the taxi industry do not control transport. Protect the bus drivers and their passengers. If attacked the police must shoot to kill.

    • Anne De Wet says:

      With a police minister like Beki Cele who advocates lawlessness, the legal way is not going to happen! The country, not only the Western Cape which is the most well-run province in the RSA, lives with a minority who are corrupt, lawless, violent, arrogant thugs – many so-called police officers also fall into this category while the hatted minister stirs up more thuggery by his inane statements. Why can the Golden Arrow buses not be protected? Because the said minister is part of the bigger problem.

  • William Dryden says:

    Charges should be brought against the taxi association for any damages caused by their members and they must pay for all the losses that victims suffered.

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