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Day 2 of Western Cape taxi strike begins with shot bus driver, burning tyres, fresh scramble to get to work

Day 2 of Western Cape taxi strike begins with shot bus driver, burning tyres, fresh scramble to get to work
A bus was set slight and the driver shot in Khayelitsha as the taxi strike entered its second day. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

A bus driver was shot and a vehicle set alight in Khayelitsha as the violent taxi strike entered its second day.

Western Cape commuters, some of whom slept on benches in the city on Thursday night, were left scrambling again as the provincial taxi strike entered its second day.

There were, however, minimal disruptions on roads on Friday morning. Traffic on the N2 from Somerset West to the Cape Town CBD was flowing, as motorists could use the bus lane which is reserved for buses and taxis in the morning. The alternative arterial on Baden Powell Drive was also not affected.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith confirmed three incidents:

  • A bus driver was shot and wounded and his vehicle set alight in Khayelitsha;
  • Tyres were set alight in Atlantis, Bloekombos, Witsand and Borcherds Quarry, as was a vehicle in Langa; and
  • Stone throwing along the N7 in the vicinity of Dunoon.

“We continue to maintain a high visibility presence in all hotspot areas, working closely with SAPS to monitor for and respond to any incidents that occur,” Smith said.

“The events that have unfolded since yesterday afternoon only serve to confirm that the taxi industry has no regard for anyone.” 

I’ve been here since 2pm yesterday. I slept here and now it’s time for work.

Taxi ranks were deserted on Friday morning, although some were making short trips in areas including Strand, Somerset West and Macassar. 

Daily Maverick arrived at the Cape Town bus terminus at about 5am, where one commuter – who declined to give their name – said: “I’ve been here since 2pm yesterday. I slept here and now it’s time for work. I think I’m going to go to work from here because there is no point in going home. Maybe when I knock off something positive would be done.”

Cape Town taxi strike

Hundreds of people walk home on Cape Town’s N2 on the afternoon of 3 August 2023. They had been left stranded after taxi operators went on strike over the impounding of minibus taxis. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Cecelia Magama, a public transport interchange officer, told Daily Maverick that people were taken home by bus and forced to leave the rank by law officials between 1.30pm and 3pm. “It affects my work here because I can’t go home. We are here to patrol and protect the rank. Now that there’s no operation I’ll have to stay home,” she said.

The taxi rank in the Cape Town CBD – usually a bustling spot during the morning commute – was quiet, filled with only the sounds of sweeping, security officials talking loudly and the occasional shout from people. The allocated lines for areas such as Dunoon, Khayelitsha, Philippi and Delft were empty. 

Law enforcement vehicles patrolled the entrance of the taxi rank as some people walked through the rank. Trains from the nearby station could be heard.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi industry and City of Cape Town harden their stances amid strike violence and mayhem

The area around the station, usually filled with traders selling everything from breakfast to fast food and clothes, was quiet. On Friday morning, only a few stalls were operational. Shopkeeper Ali Vesso, who sells sweets, chips and cooldrink, told Daily Maverick he opened his stall after 7am. He had worked until 7pm on Thursday when the strike began. “From 12pm we saw people rushing,” he said. After the initial rush for taxis, business became quiet. Vesso locked up and took a MyCiTi home to Woodstock, after being unable to board several buses because they were filled to capacity. Without taxi commuters, his main customer base, Vesso not only worried about profit, but also stock expiring. “If it doesn’t move next month it expires.”

I cannot afford to take an unpaid leave of absence because I really need the money. 

By 7.30am buses were operational all over the city. Only the MyCiTi-to-Khayelitsha was suspended, but restarted shortly thereafter. 

In Khayelitsha, Golden Arrow Bus Services were operating from Mew Way Bridge and the corner of Spine Road and the N2, while in Nyanga buses were picking up commuters from Borcherds Quarry.

Buses continued to be escorted to ensure commuter safety.

“Our intention is to operate on all routes with diversions in place,” Golden Arrow said. “Unfortunately we will not be able to confirm whether each scheduled bus will operate as it normally does, but our aim is to provide as much coverage as possible and to run services until we have assisted as many passengers as possible.”

Commuters suffer 

Noloyiso Mati (39) said she walked more than 30 minutes to catch the Khayelitsha bus. “It is usually a five-minute walk to the bus stop,” she said, catching her breath. “I cannot afford to take an unpaid leave of absence because I really need the money. I am a mother of three and all my children are dependent on me.” 

The organisations have also decided to prohibit MyCiTi and Golden Arrow buses, as well as Uber vehicles, from entering the area.

Loyiso Jama said he was lucky on Thursday to catch a bus and hoped his fortunes wouldn’t change on Friday. “My friends had to walk home but I was lucky because I forced myself into the bus. If we could punish Santaco for what they decided – to strike immediately – we would do that as commuters, but [Golden Arrow] and the MyCiti buses do not have the capacity to ferry us all.” 

In Bellville, another key transport interchange in Cape Town, the taxi rank was quiet, while in Parow, buses and trains were ferrying people to the city.

In Witsand, one tyre-burning incident was reported at 5.30am. The fire was quickly extinguished and the debris removed. There were also incidents of stone-throwing but no injuries were reported, traffic officials told Daily Maverick. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Chaos, arson and threats of legal action after Cape taxi drivers begin strike

Bus services and taxis operated normally until 9am in Atlantis, but at an emergency meeting of the Witsand and Blaauwberg taxi associations, representing Atlantis, both associations agreed to support each other during the seven-day strike, and committed to keeping their taxis off the road.

taxi strike

Commuters make their way home on the N2 in Cape Town after the taxi strike began on 3 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Following the meeting, taxis in Atlantis closed all routes leading into and out of the city and cancelled all taxis with immediate effect. The organisations have also decided to prohibit MyCiTi and Golden Arrow buses, as well as Uber vehicles, from entering the area.

The situation was tense and residents were angry because they had to walk kilometres from Shoprite and Pick n Pay, the taxi rank and the Wesfleur Day Hospital to their homes.

Christy Prins, the chairperson of the Blaauwberg taxi association, told Daily Maverick: “If you look at the unemployment figures, these drivers wake up early, he doesn’t steal or break in, he just drives people for a living.

“Why do traffic officials impound vehicles? The first impoundment cost around R10,000, the second R15,000, and the third R20,000. The City Of Cape Town is crippling us. Taxi drivers must borrow money to pay the fine for the vehicle release. That is why so many of us left or drive illegally because we are unable to pay the bank and the fine of the City of Cape Town.”

Traffic cops cordoned off roads from Atlantis to Witsand leading to the N7 freeway, and traffic was redirected via alternative roads to the West Coast Road R27.

Chikunga weighs in 

Speaking on the sidelines of the coalition dialogue at the University of the Western Cape, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said she was concerned about the way taxi drivers were arrested. She said she believed those who break the law should face legal consequences, but did not support images of brutality against the taxi industry. 

“The destruction of the taxis that we are seeing committed by the law enforcement agencies cannot happen – we oppose that. We think that even the taxi industry should be listened to and be heard when it raises some issues, it cannot be dismissed simply because it is the taxi industry”, she said. 

On Thursday afternoon, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) announced it would embark on the seven-day strike. Taxi owners and drivers, who were attending Santaco’s meeting in Makhaza, Cape Town, to decide on whether to strike, immediately walked out of the venue and pelted a law enforcement vehicle with stones.

As the violence escalated and commuters struggled to get home, City officials and the taxi industry appeared to double down on their positions.

“The callous attacks on other public transport vehicles, infrastructure and road users have sadly become an all-too-familiar part of their playbook,” said Smith. 

“The City calls on anyone with information about the instigators behind these attacks and disruptions to please report it to the City’s toll-free tip-off line, so that they can be prosecuted.”

Santaco spokesperson Nceba Enge has distanced the organisation from the violence, saying they are not responsible as they are not operating. 

Simmering tensions reach boiling point

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

Under the National Road Traffic Act, licensed drivers who aren’t carrying their licences are simply issued with a fine and allowed to continue driving. However, under the new by-law, the City of Cape Town will fine unlicensed drivers and impound the vehicle as well.

Tips can be shared anonymously, and the City also offers rewards of up to R5,000 for credible information that leads to arrests or convictions. The number is 0800 110077.

People who witness any incident that requires an emergency response can call the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre on 021 480 7700. DM

Daily Maverick reporters Suné Payne, Velani Ludidi, Samane Jnr Marks, Jim Mohlala, Chuma Nontsele and Vincent Cruywagen contributed to this news report. This is a developing story.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • andrew farrer says:

    well done COCT – stand your ground and get the useless SAPS to start doing their work and protect the busses & trains

  • Bill Gild says:

    The time has long passed for the COCT to establish a functional, safe and reliable public transportation system.
    The black taxi industry has held the citizens hostage for way too long.

    • Peter Holmes says:

      All very well, but the COCT’s hands are tied. The DA’s requests to allow passenger train transport to be controlled at provincial (and, I assume, city level) was turned down by; guess who, the inept ANC central government!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Large parts of the taxi industry are criminal organisations and should be treated as such.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Criminals, one and all. Everyone needs to fight these guys in whatever way each of us can.

    Boycott them commuters. Employers try with everything you have to absorb the short term shock there is sure to be by paying employees whatever you can. Give people lifts if you can. Drive slowly in front of taxis.

    The only thing these criminal fools understand is money. They don’t care if they break our society and our society’s laws to get it.

    We need to fight this evil and stop it.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    I’ll probably get roasted for this, but could the City not wait for the Netball World Cup to finish, so the world’s attention wasn’t on Cape Town before clamping down on the taxis? Seriously, one more week wouldn’t make a material difference. Perhaps they could also have communicated to the unions that they had until then to get their ducks in a row. It’s such a massive issue, with such criminal thuggery masquerading as ‘taxi representatives’ that a week would surely not have made a difference.

    And as for JP Smith and mouthing off about retaliation – that’s the sort of puerile bombast you’d expect from Cele or Mbalula.

    • prifam1 says:

      Give Smith a break. He is dealing with criminals. Equating his actions with taxi criminal bosses and a crooked government is hackneyed nonsense.

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        No it’s not – he’s supposed to be better than the ANC, not mimicking them. I have absolutely no problem with enforcing the law and dealing with criminals within that context, it’s the ‘Big Man’ threats of impounding 25 taxis for every bus or whatever attacked that’s stupid. I really wish our politicians could speak reasonably and act decisively, rather than just mouth off with threats.

  • Jennifer D says:

    One cannot feel any sympathy for the taxi drivers or owners who have caused chaos on our roads for years. If they were considerate and careful drivers, with care for their passengers lives, we would not be in this situation. No one wants their livelihood destroyed but it’s a two way street and they have to obey the law of the country they live in – why do they think they are exempt?

  • Alan Watkins says:

    Compromise idea.
    Have a one strike/two strike system
    After two strikes, impound the vehicle after the stipulated offence as laid out in the city by laws
    After one strike, impound the vehicle and return it once a speed governor has been fitted with a seal, at taxi owners cost. 60kph? 80 kph? After 30 days the taxi driver can take taxi in to have seal removed on speed governor. If seal broken, impound the vehicle. Much lower costs to taxi driver than the impounding release fees. And the taxi driver has to drive at maximum of 60kph for a month.

    • Chris Orr says:

      Will this stop the other dangerous driving aspects of the taxis, for example jumping red lights? I doubt it. Impounded vehicles need to be sold to car yards for spare parts.

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