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Parents of learners arrested in Western Cape taxi strike say their childrens’ future ‘has effectively been taken away’

Parents of learners arrested in Western Cape taxi strike say their childrens’ future ‘has effectively been taken away’
A burnt-out bus and HealthNet taxi on the N2 near Langa, Cape Town, during the taxi strike on 3 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Six learners, aged between 11 and 17, and a taxi driver were arrested by law enforcement officers in Atlantis on Saturday on suspicion of incitement to public violence. While the investigation continues, the children say they were victims of the incident.

On Monday, 7 August, six learners and a taxi driver were at the Atlantis Magistrates’ Court in Cape Town where they expected to face charges of incitement to commit violence. However, the matter was not on the court roll and neither the children nor the taxi driver appeared before a magistrate.

The learners, aged between 11 and 17, who attend three primary and high schools in Atlantis, were not permitted to sit in the court corridors on Monday and had to wait in an office with their parents for instructions from the court. The names of the learners cannot be published as they are minors.

The charges relate to an incident that occurred in Atlantis around 11am on Saturday, 5 August, during the taxi industry’s ongoing strike across the Western Cape.

Before the arrest, police had been attending to burning tyres barricading Rygersdal Street in Extension 13. It is one of the main entrances used by MyCiTi buses into Atlantis.

At about the same time, the learners were purportedly in the vicinity of the taxi rank in Atlantis. The learners claim that a taxi guardjie (assistant) forced them into a taxi loaded full of tyres. The driver then drove away with them.

According to the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith, children are being used in acts of violence and stone-throwing incidents to support the strike. The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) has condemned the violence and distanced itself from claims it is responsible for lawlessness.

The learners said that law enforcement officers spotted the tyres through the taxi’s back window. After a chase, the officers pulled the taxi over and arrested the driver and learners. The guardjie managed to flee on foot.

Daily Maverick understands that this is the first time since the taxi strike began last week that learners have been arrested on charges of incitement to commit violence.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi strike impact — Matric learners threatened at rank, almost half a million blocked from Western Cape schools

Following the learners’ arrest on Saturday and subsequent release into the care of their parents, they were handed a notice of rights in terms of the Constitution. The notice stated that they had been arrested for the incitement of public violence and had the right to:

  1. “Remain silent and anything you say may be recorded and may be used as evidence against you;
  2. “Not be compelled to make a confession or admission which could be used against you; and
  3. “Be informed, at the first appearance after arrest, of the reason for your detention.”
learners taxi strike

The notice of rights in terms of the Constitution that the learners were handed. (Photo: Supplied)

This warning enraged parents, who wanted answers about why their children were being regarded as criminals.

Outside court, the parents told Daily Maverick that after their children had been arrested, a social worker assessed the youngsters in their presence. The social worker was mostly interested in their personal information, such as where they lived, what grade they were in, and how they became involved.

The learners, who spoke to Daily Maverick in their parents’ presence and with their permission, all offered the same version of events. They said they had been bundled into the taxi by the guardjie and never voluntarily entered the taxi.

They said: “We didn’t know where we were going. The taxi was chased and stopped by traffic officials. The guardjie managed to run away after he jumped out of the taxi.”

After police stopped the taxi, the learners were ordered at gunpoint to lie down on a patch of grass at the back entrance to the Shoprite in Atlantis.

The father of an arrested Grade 10 learner said he was not happy when his child’s fingerprints were taken as they would be reflected in police records.

“My child’s future has been effectively taken away. My son was allegedly forced into the taxi rather than freely entering it. To do something like this to a child is wrong,” he said.

The mother of a 12-year-old Grade 5 student said her son was still afraid and hadn’t closed his eyes since his arrest.

learners taxi strike

ANC Women’s League member Charmaine Roberts (centre) came to support parents Leonard Malgas (left) and Mercia Vergotine (right) at the Atlantis Magistrates’ Court on 7 August 2023. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Charmaine Roberts, a member of the ANC Women’s League in the area who came to support parents, said: “The Child Justice Act (CJA), 2008 (Act 75 of 2008) protects a child, and because the children were put through such a traumatic experience they will tackle this issue once the matter is in court. We will also play a supportive role.”

Daily Maverick has contacted the Centre for Child Law to inquire about the procedure regarding the learners’ arrest and release, but had not received a response at the time of writing.

learners taxi strike

Blaauwberg taxi association chairperson Christy Prins has condemned the incident, but said both sides of the story must be heard. The association represents broader Atlantis. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

Meanwhile, Christy Prins, chairperson of the Blaauwberg Taxi Association, which represents the greater Atlantis area, condemned the incident, saying he found out about it when he was in court on Monday.

However, he cautioned that one should listen to the taxi driver’s account as well as the learners’.

According to Kerry Mauchline, the spokesperson for Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier, the learners’ schools were not aware of the incident and were awaiting information from SAPS.

Prosecutor Aubrey Temmers told Daily Maverick: “The matter was not on the court’s roll. The matter has been remanded to police, who will conduct a thorough investigation.”

He said that after receiving their report, the court would decide if there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the learners and whether to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Everyone is a “victim” today no accountability.

  • metarquin says:

    Innocent Mmmm 1 guy forced a whole group in??? Yawn teach them younger to lie

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    The appearance of the anc woman’s league representatives proves to me that this taxi strike is not about byLaws but political intimidation against the DA! How disgusting to be using children in this way – the parents should be ashamed of themselves – why send your kids to school by taxi when you know there is a violent strike happening. This whole thing has a very bad smell!

  • L Dennis says:

    Absolute political intimidation.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    There is an investigation.

    Duh. Stop playing the bleeding hearts.

    (although parents I hate to break it to you but it is entirely possible that your perfect children may have been causing trouble)

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