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Taxi industry and City of Cape Town harden their stances amid strike violence and mayhem

Taxi industry and City of Cape Town harden their stances amid strike violence and mayhem
Stranded commuters at the Cape Town taxi rank. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

As commuters across Cape Town scrambled to find a way home on Thursday after minibus taxi drivers withdrew their services, the taxi industry wants the national government to intervene, while the city has promised to act against thuggery.

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

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

When word of the strike reached drivers at the Nyanga terminus, a Golden Arrow bus was set alight while commuters were inside. Daily Maverick could not establish whether anyone was injured in the attack.

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


“In the last two hours, we have responded to a blockade of the N2 by taxi drivers, numerous vehicles being set alight and sporadic incidents of stone-throwing,” said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith on Thursday evening.

taxi strike

Commuters help push a child through a bus window after the taxi strike began in Cape Town on Thursday, 3 August 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“This includes petrol bomb attacks on four buses, three trucks and three panelvans or bakkies, as well as an ambulance. We also saw a Coca-Cola truck looted and an attack on a school.

“These actions speak of thuggery, criminality and contempt for the safety of all commuters and road users. These shameful and cowardly acts must be placed before the leadership of Santaco and the taxi associations involved.”

Smith said he had been asked by Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis to ensure that the violence caused by some in the public transport sector was met with an appropriate response and to remind the taxi industry that “we will proceed with impounding 25 vehicles for every truck, bus, vehicle or facility that is burnt or vandalised”.

The mayor condemned the lawlessness associated with the strike and said the city, with the Western Cape government, was in the process of seeking an urgent interdict against the violence.

“While we respect the right to peaceful protest, violence and intimidation have no place in Cape Town. 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.”

Hill-Lewis also questioned why Police Minister Bheki Cele had attended Santaco’s meeting in Makhaza on Thursday.

taxi strike

The shadows of commuters fall on a bus as the sun begins to set in Cape Town, with thousands not knowing how they will make it home. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“I am further concerned that this afternoon’s violence follows Police Minister Bheki Cele’s involvement in industry strike action talks today despite not being constitutionally responsible for transport. That a minister in government responsible for policing could convene a meeting with the taxi industry that results in a strike call, knowing full well this will lead to violence, is unacceptable,” Hill-Lewis said.

At the time of writing, Cele’s spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment on why he attended the meeting and what was discussed.

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 the failure to stop when instructed to do so by an officer.

taxi strike

Buses accommodated some stranded taxi passengers as the SA National Taxi Council halted minibus taxi operations. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

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 traffic by-law, the City of Cape Town will still issue unlicensed drivers with a fine — but will also impound the vehicle.

On Tuesday, the SAPS Public Order Policing Unit had to be called in when taxi operators clashed with city traffic officials who tried to enforce the new by-law. On Wednesday, a taxi driver was shot by a traffic official during a scuffle in Philippi.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tension boils over after Cape Town traffic officer shoots taxi driver in wake of new municipal by-law

Following the shooting, Santaco withdrew from engagements with the Minibus Taxi Task Team, a forum which includes the taxi industry, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, and is aimed at finding common ground between the parties.

Winde expressed his disappointment at Santaco’s sudden withdrawal from the task team and said that long-term solutions were desperately needed, but could not be formulated under the current circumstances.

“Violence is not the answer. You have the right to strike, but not to endanger the lives of residents and law enforcement officers and destroy property. The safety of commuters, the very lifeblood of the taxi industry, who are bearing the brunt of this violent protest action, is of paramount importance,” the premier said.

Winde urged taxi leaders to return to the table and work with the government to resolve long-standing issues that have confronted the industry.

‘We’re not responsible’

taxi strike

Commuters jump through bus windows, desperate for a ride home after the Western Cape taxi leadership stopped all operations on Thursday. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Santaco Western Cape chairperson Mandla Hermanus said it was better for taxi operators to withdraw their vehicles from the roads than have the vehicles impounded by officials.

“We are not responsible for what is happening because we are not operating,” Hermanus said.

“It has become clear to us that the Western Cape government, particularly the City of Cape Town, is not interested in working with our industry. We have told the municipality that we are not saying that laws must not be enforced, but we are saying, surely you cannot impound vehicles for what the driver has done and not punish the driver.”

Taxi owners often employ drivers to operate their vehicles and the industry has complained that by impounding taxis, owners will be punished for their drivers’ infringements.

Hermanus also gave an example of an area called Brackengate in Brackenfell, where taxi drivers had been working for the past eight years without operating licences. More than 1,500 people work in the area and are dependent on taxis to and from work.

“For eight years, not a single operating licence was issued for that area. These are the challenges we asked the municipality to consider when they impound vehicles without operating licences.

taxi strike

The SA National Taxi Council in the Western Cape suspended taxi operations, leaving commuters stranded in Cape Town. (Photo: Supplied)

“There are new routes that have emerged due to the failing railway system and we have asked that while the government is busy with their processes, they should issue us temporary licences. We also asked the city to develop a standard working procedure for their law enforcement officials and these were rejected.”

Santaco said it decided to embark on a strike for a whole week because it wanted the action to be impactful.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Women’s Day national commemorative event at the Khayelitsha Rugby Stadium on 9 August. The industry plans to protest at the venue and ask for the President to hear their grievances.

On Thursday, some commuters walked home from the Cape Town CBD to as far as Strand, almost 50km away.

Roads that were affected on Thursday include:

  • The N2 inbound was closed at Jakes Gerwel Drive.
  • The N2 outbound was closed at the M5. Motorists travelling on the N2 were being diverted on to the M5 southbound.
  • Jakes Gerwel Drive was closed between the R300 and Govan Mbeki Road.
  • Jakes Gerwel Drive was closed at Bluegum in a northerly direction.

All the affected roads were reported to have been reopened on Thursday night. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mel da Silva says:

    It certainly is a bad situation, but COC must stand their ground and break the cycle of lawlessness. The taxi industry need to know that if they do not comply with the law, then they must face the consequences. As a carrier of the public, every taxi driver knows his responsibilities and must be held to maintain them to the highest possible standard. For too long, they have been allowed to get away literally with murder.

  • Brendon Bussy says:

    Schools most likely empty until the middle of next week at least if the strike action is until the 9th as announced. At my school, because of safety concerns our busses have been garaged and our learners encouraged to stay home. Our hostel kids might be stranded at school for the weekend. And with matric exams just around the corner. As a teacher I’m stressed at the thought of trying to catch up missed teaching time. I feel that this is about the taxis owners first. They would rather that their drivers be arrested than their fleet impounded. The control of the transport industry by the owners is for me the single most distressing aspect of our public transport crisis, the thought that they hold any change or improvement of public transport to ransom.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Most minibus taxis in my experience act the same way as our despicable and arrogant government and blue light brigade. They consider themselves special, above the law and entitled to total impunity. Ordinary road-users must simply get out of their way – that is their mindset and expectation. They are lawless, aggressive, rude and flout just about every rule on the road. There is a massive sick culture of lawlessness in SA and they are one of the most active proponents. Whilst the service they provide is essential given our pathetic public transport (another anc government failure) it doesn’t mean that they are not subject to the rules of the road. It is high time that the authorities act decisively and hold them and the owners accountable and I am in support of the CT authorities. This is nothing but pure gangsterism on steroids.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Just a reminder that the nearly R20 ooo ooo ooo taxi industry only paid R5 000 000 in tax in 2022.

    Thugs all round.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Could someone please find out WTF the tw*t-in-the-hat was doing at the Santaco meeting? Stirring things up presumably, as a starting point for his disgraceful ANC’s run up to next year’s election. Welcome to Deepest Darkest Africa.

    • Andreas Joss says:

      It is the norm for the ANC to negotiate and make deals with thugs, so no surprises there.

      The City of Cape town applies the law regardless, and does not negotiate with terrorists and thugs, and for that I am thankful.

  • Peter Doble says:

    It’s an unholy mess caused by poor governance, lack of adequate safe public transport, hopelessly unplanned communities, settlements and employment locations. The sad truth is that there is no plan for a change of direction, so without any political will, the problem will get worse and the chaos increase.

    • R S says:

      In the long term we would be better off with fewer taxis and more buses. Let them strike and come down on taxi violence with whatever legal means possible Cape Town.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Basically all of which can be laid at the door of the ANC and their kleptocratic incompetent ‘management’ of the country. And now presumably they want to stir things up down here in the incredibly-well-run-in-the-circumstances Cape as it shows them up, especially in the year before the election. They disgust me.

  • David McCormick says:

    UCT SRC supports the taxi industry action stating racist laws…. Not sure what is racist about laws that ultimately make commuter transport safer but saddend that student leaders support lawlessness.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Cele, along with the ANC and EFF love to see trouble in DA Cape Town, so he’s definitely not seen as an honest broker. Don’t blame Cape Town who actually do enforce laws unlike other Provence’s. The taxi boss thugs think they are a law unto themselves. If they hadn’t encouraged the damaging of trains and MyCiti bus stations we wouldn’t need new taxi routes.

  • Paul Zille says:

    Stand firm, Cape Town. But you are on your own. The ANC national government has no interest in resolving this. They support anything that undermines Cape Town’s status as the only functional city left. Part of its National Democratic Revolution.

  • James Miller says:

    I think these comments accurately reflect the views of most people who share the roads with taxis. It’s unfortunate that there is no alternative for so many people, and for us drivers who are endangered by their antics. The taxi industry seems like a mafia, threatening mayhem and destruction if they’re held accountable for breaking the law. Their position is ridiculous, and must be rejected. As long as the taxi industry thinks it can dictate terms to the city under threat, they will remain a lawless cabal, which is why it’s critical now not to give in to this blackmail. If the city folds now, there will be no end to these disruptions.

    trying to operate with impunity, The critical thing now is for the City to

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Welcome to the world of an ANC and EFF partnership! This is completely politically and has nothing to do with anything else. The moment lawlessness is forgiven, overlooked or even negotiated with, is the moment SA has lost the fight for Democracy and civil society.

  • Soil Merchant says:

    The Taxi industry must be regulated and part government owned in order for it to better service the country and its commuters.

  • Walter Spatula says:

    Taxi bosses and owners are responsible for the actions of their employed drivers. That’s how all businesses work.

    • Theresa Avenant says:

      Quite right Walter Spatula. Many people don’t seem to see this. A way needs to be found to stop the reign of terror which the taxi mafia (bosses and owners) have over drivers who have no other way of making a living. These drivers are, quite understandably, very angry people, while their bosses languish, untouched, in their palaces and drive excessively expensive vehicles. Sound familiar people?

    • Andreas Joss says:

      100% spot on!

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    The violent aggression of the taxi “industry” to any effort to regulate them, and the failure of the State to maintain a safe and regular public transport system are intertwined like a toxic koeksister, and the cause for this Frankenstein monster’s disregard for passengers and the rule of law. They break all the traffic rules on a daily basis, as they wish, so why show regard for any law? They have been allowed to be a law unto themselves for far too long. They have to be controlled, but how do you do this in the absence of REAL public transport? I hope the City sticks to its guns, but for our homegrown Nazi, JP Smith, to threaten retaliation by numbers is counter-productive. Take the owners and the associations to court, and make them pay for the damage.

    • Stratford Canning says:

      With our dysfunctional judicial system, do you think taking the taxi owners to court will make any difference? I doubt it.

      • Carsten Rasch says:

        Our judicial system still works. The taxi bosses are the real problem. It’s basically a laundry for gangsters and crime lords because it’s a cash business. What other option is there anyway?

    • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

      Why label JP Smith as a Nazi? There is zero evidence that JP Smith subscribes to the ideology of National Socialism.

      • Carsten Rasch says:

        He acts like a fascist. I don’t like him. He’s provocative, full of bravado, and a bully. Why threaten to attach 25 taxis for every burnt bus?

        • Steve Davidson says:

          So, what are the arsonistic taxi thugs? Maybe they need some kind of threat to bring home to them the disgraceful way they are carrying on. They’ll never appear in court so a ‘fight fire with fire’ response might be even more appropriate than it sounds. And you yourself said it’s the taxi owners who are the main problem, so impounding their vehicles might be the perfect way of forcing them to do their duty and stop the burning.

      • Andreas Joss says:

        Agreed, the Nazi reference was ridiculous.

  • Tivan Leak says:

    Sad to see that it is the poor – who have been paying higher prices to get to places of work due to apartheid’s spatial planning legacy persisting – who are suffering because of this scuffle between the government and the taxi industry. Some people had to walk home as far as 50km. We can do better for our fellow citizens. People are working hard despite the adversity and we are failing them.

  • louis viljee says:

    The taxi industry has long been seen as an egregious example of thuggery and lawlessness. But putting J P Smith in charge of Safety and Security is comparable to trying to impose Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in Black schools in 1976. Are we surprised this has turned into the destructive mess it has? With commuters being most affected, everyone suffering.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The taxi industry has been a law on themselves that even led to murder. It is time that they are being compelled working within the limits of the law.

  • Dietmar Horn says:

    It seems to me the mini taxi industry is like no other in South Africa dominated by criminal minded owners with no ethical business practices. The key question is: where is the fault in the system that could have caused this to happen?

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    UCT SRC supports the taxi strike etc! Not at all surprising as I am sure that most of these brain-dead halfwits are there through bursaries, sponsorships, freebies and student loans, which mostly won’t be repaid as borne by the facts as being witnessed by the huge loans owing to universities around the country.

    • waleed abrahams says:

      These comments are all relevant and true in our structured society where we have access to cars, houses and other forms of financial gain and assitance that keeps the middle class going. But are these comments the same for people who actually use these services, live in these areas and are impacted by these actions and the consequences thereof? If the COC is going to stand hard and fast, they will need to offer the man in the street alternatives so that he may still get to work, get home and thereby be able to look after his family and himself while keeping the business going that relies on his labour.

  • Actions of ‘Thuggery’ in this article particularly the use of petrol bombs, and Golden Arrow’s report on news this morning of a driver being shot, crosses the line between protest and acts of war, and should be delt with accordingly.

  • William Dryden says:

    The taxi industry is a law unto themselves and get angry when controls are put in motion.
    If the driver is operating without a licence, then yes he should be punished, but then the taxi owner should also be punished for allowing his driver to drive without an operating licence. It’s a 2 way street only that the taxi industry doesn’t want to play the game.

  • David Katz says:

    Law enforcement are either involved in taxis or afraid to confront the taxi drivers.
    They have law for regular drivers and citizens another for taxi industry. Government needs to bring this industry under control and start collecting taxes on earnings.

  • Gavin Brown says:

    It’ll take a while…. but if impoundment is kept in place by CoCT – expect a rush of applications and a whole lot of job opportunites ! A system that has proved in many other countries to maintain sustainable compliance ?

  • Glyn Morgan says:


  • johanw773 says:

    They will proceed to impound 25 taxis for every vehicle burnt or damaged…….
    Let’s see how that turns out for COC, my guess is that the outbreak of violence in response to this will be so severe that it will be difficult to contain. COC do not have the security resources or logistics to cope with this.
    We are at war people. The problem is that our fat, dumb and happy society strongly rejects all of these incidents, now happening in different forms and places all over the country but we are powerless to do something about it. At some stage we have to start asking: Where does that leave us?

  • Brian Doyle says:

    This is an industry that needs serious regulations. For too long they have been causing havoc on the roads, while terrorising legal transport vehicles when they do not get their way. It is time to stop the taxi industry blackmailing the government, the government should place taxi control under the relevant municipalities they operate in and be answerable to a traffic minister in that municipality. Taxis were supposed to operate in addition to the other forms of transport that were working smoothly prior to taxis coming into the picture

  • Llewellyn Curlewis says:

    government by rules – no wonder everyone wants to leave joburg for a functioning Cape Town
    Good for DA

  • Tim Price says:

    I support the City’s impoundment of taxis in terms of relevant legislation and regulations. The taxi industry is a criminal mafia that turns the bosses into millionaires, who probably pay little or no in come tax, and are happy to flout the law at every turn. Lets see how long they hold out without earning any income. My bet is they’ll be back at it long before the 10th.

  • Gregory Scott says:

    Clear confirmation that the Taxi industry is run and operated by thugs and gangsters who easily resort to intimidation, violence and destruction. A bit like a spoilt brat that does not get their own way and throws their toys out of the cot.
    How primitive is this knee-jerk reaction to resort to violence to get your own way?
    We are dealing with primitive behaviour here.
    These thugs burn, damage and break buses at a whim in what seems to be an attempt to tell the busses to stop operating.
    So, in keeping with such a thought pattern one wonders whether these thugs will get the message to stop their primitive violent behaviour when their taxi windows are broken or damaged or burnt.
    An eye for an eye, perhaps.

  • Change is good sa says:

    The only thing to blame here is the ANC. Lawlessness in the taxi industry for decades is because they have allowed violence and non-compliance to reign supreme. The ANC will also encourage the current mayhem for political gain. Shame on them, they never care about who dies and what infrastructure is destroyed.
    The Government should be coming out to condemn the violence and the strike. They should be insisting that the taxi industry comply with the laws of the country, but this will not happen.
    Vote for change in 2024.

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    Please stop approving these posts, I have seen it a few times.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    Maybe you should just stop listening and spare us all having to read your rambling complaint.

  • Abel Mngadi says:

    I don’t see this stand off being resolved anytime soon and the losers are the commuters and employers. Businesses will have to close as some vandals will take advantage of this crisis. The action by the COC should have been taken a long time ago to restore order in the taxi industry. The taxi industry has consolidated its lawlessness throughout the country and I don’t see a winner in this unfortunately.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    I served in the Fire Department during the riots of the 1970’s and 80’s. The so called “freedom fighters” set alight buses that were used to transport their own people. They burnt down schools that educated their children and community halls that were built for their use. There is no sense in what they are doing now, but there was no sense in what they did then !

  • Philip De Kock says:

    If the ANC provided a train service we may not have this continual nonsense. If CoCT stopped policing the taxis could you imagine the utter chaos OH yes Where are Cele’s SAPS in this ? He attended the meeting so therefore he is involved

  • Alan Jeffrey says:

    Velani-you ask why has not something been done over the last 30 years to dismantle the situation where black people are stuck far out of town and have to rely on inter alia, long taxi trips? The answer is simple-if the ANC had spent the billions upon billions upon billions of Rands they have allowed to be stolen and wasted over this period, on the upliftment and betterment of the vast majority of our people,then that situation would have been drastically improved.

  • montebe montebe says:

    Allow the City to do its job and run the metropolitan transport system. The taxi drivers are the pawns. The taxi owners are the only parties who have an interest in lawlessness – torching, blockading. The comment by this journalist labelling blame at apartheid spatial planning reveals a lack of insight of how the world and indeed the state of this country operates. People in New York travel 45minutes to an hour to get to Manhattan, ditto London, Tokyo, Beijing etc. The difference is that they have efficient means of transport. Give the City those powers then you can blame them. To live 20 – 30 kms from a metropole is normally acceptable.

  • bushtrack says:

    The taxi industry is the most visible entity in disregard of the law. Everywhere in SA. Their seeming impunity to any form of legal sanction stimulate other types of crime all over SA. If the COC can resolve this matter on COC terms, chances are that all other types of crime in Cape Town will be inhibited.

  • Andre Tait says:

    Who do you think torched all the trains? No more trains. More taxi business. Its getting to the point where the citizens need to start setting up militias that can react on short notice in every area to take out these villians that destroy property and attack the public in broad daylight with zero consequences. They just stand on the side of the road and petrol bomb and stone vehicles and NOTHING happens to them. NOTHING.

  • Chris Marshall says:

    Velani Ludidi rightly attributes the power exerted by the criminal leaders of the taxi mafia in Cape Town to the spatial legacy of apartheid. What is incorrect in the commentary is that the City of Cape Town is attempting to apply the National Traffic Act, not its own by-laws. Drivers and passengers countrywide are cursed by a class of person that thinks that it is above the law and many lives are lost as a result. What is missing in the commentary is any plausible plan to solve the problem. Many in Cape Town have, are and will continue to seek solutions in spite of impediments created by the central government and its agencies. It might be useful for your honest correspondents to analyse, understand and report on them. Finally, I suggest that employers offer their staff, for a limited time, subsidized travel by bus or rail to deter them from using minibus taxis or spineless e-hailing services.

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