South Africa

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Judge grants City of Cape Town urgent interdict against taxi council to ‘stop this madness’

Judge grants City of Cape Town urgent interdict against taxi council to ‘stop this madness’
Burnt buses are removed from the N2 and Borcherds Quarry intersection in Cape Town. Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said that 10 buses had been torched since the taxi strike began on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

The order by Judge Patrick Gamble prohibits any person or vehicle from unreasonably blocking Cape Town’s roads with the intention of harming or delaying passengers using other modes of transport.

The Western Cape High Court on Monday night granted another interdict against the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and its affiliates as a violent taxi strike continued in Cape Town.

The order by Judge Patrick Gamble prohibits any person or vehicle from unreasonably blocking Cape Town’s roads with the intention of harming or delaying passengers using other modes of transport. Members of the taxi industry are also prohibited from coming within 100m of a transport depot.

“This is a matter that cries out for urgent intervention,” Judge Gamble said. “There are poor people out there who are deprived of an income. I can only ask the parties to make the most earnest endeavour to find one another and stop this madness as soon as possible.”

Judge Gamble’s order followed a six-hour hearing on Monday evening during which the City of Cape Town and Golden Arrow Bus Services made submissions against Santaco and 166 taxi associations affiliated with it.

Advocate Anton Katz, acting for the city, said that negotiations between city officials and Santaco had broken down because some of the representatives had arrived with AK-47 assault rifles. Judge Gamble said there was no evidence to this effect before him.

In a statement on Monday, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the city would not negotiate with “a (literal) gun to our heads”.

“There can be no further discussions with local Santaco leadership until their violence stops … the rule of law is not up for negotiation.”

More buses attacked

Golden Arrow Bus Services had secured an urgent interim interdict against the respondents on Sunday, but returned to court on Monday arguing that Santaco was in contempt of court.

This was after more of the company’s buses were attacked on Monday, despite Santaco agreeing to the interim interdict and saying it would take steps to put a stop to the unlawful behaviour, issue a statement condemning the violence and lawlessness, and call on its members to stop such behaviour.

Lawyers for Golden Arrow’s urgent application said Santaco must provide proof it had complied with Sunday’s order, in particular that it had put out the statement and had taken reasonable steps to stop the unlawful actions of its members.

The company also sought that Santaco reports, under oath, the identities of members or individual taxi operators who were arrested or involved in the “unlawful” blockade of the N2 on Monday morning, to the registrar of the court.

They wanted the court to issue another order, giving Santaco until 23 August to give reasons why they should not be held in contempt of court and be imprisoned for 30 days.

Judge Gamble is expected to make a ruling on Golden Arrow Bus Services’ application on Tuesday.

In Sunday’s urgent application, Golden Arrow general manager Derick Meyer said after the taxi strike began on 3 August, more than 10% of its fleet — 116 buses — was attacked in 48 hours.

He said taxi owners had created a volatile and dangerous situation. In terms of Santaco’s own constitution, this was not forbidden.

“The recent widely reported animosity between the city and the taxi operators arose because of the introduction of the city’s traffic by-laws, which allow for the impounding of vehicles for certain transgressions,” he said in his affidavit.

Last week, traffic officers impounded 15 minibus taxis, leading to a clash between operators and traffic officers. “It appears as though the subsequent strike is solely aimed at placing pressure on the Western Cape government to cease” impounding taxis, Meyer said.

On 3 August, within two hours of the majority of taxi associations voting to strike immediately, the first Golden Arrow bus was set alight, with passengers still on board.

During a taxi blockade of the N2, “a number of armed persons entered a Golden Arrow bus and forced passengers off”.

By midday on 4 August, 72 buses had been damaged, six of them gutted.

No-go zones

An employee had been shot and passengers had been attacked and injured, Meyer said.

Several areas were now no-go zones and the company could not even use its own shuttle bus to fetch and carry staff.

In terms of the interim interdict, which was agreed to by the respondents, they were restrained from intimidating or threatening bus operations, its employees and passengers, and from damaging any buses.

But early on Monday, according to Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, two more buses were set alight at a taxi blockade in Borcherds Quarry Road and, later that morning, a bus was set alight in Govan Mbeki Road and another in Sheffield Road.

This prompted the bus company to return to court. In a further affidavit on Monday, Meyer said Santaco had not published the statement, as required by the court order on Sunday.

“It has not taken steps to control the conduct of its affiliates, their operators or individual taxi drivers … the violence has continued unabated and has indeed escalated … a further 25 of Golden Arrow’s buses have been damaged, three of which have been totally gutted.

“Tragically, an ‘amaphela’, or independent taxi driver, not associated with the respondents, was reportedly killed this morning,” Meyer said.

He said on Sunday afternoon, a company driver was attacked with a hammer by a number of unidentified assailants.

In the early hours of Monday morning, about 20 to 40 minibus taxi drivers had blocked the N2 — in breach of Sunday’s court order.

Santaco claimed it had sent out a statement informing its members of the court order on Sunday, shortly after the order was granted.

Advocate Ismail Jamie, for Golden Arrow, insisted that Santaco had not complied with the order, evidenced by the “madness that ensued”. But Judge Gamble said there was no positive evidence of this.

Jamie then referred to pictures of blockages created by the taxis on Monday morning, as proof of contempt. He conceded that the court could not attribute that to a “specific breach” of the order by the cited taxi associations, but argued that because the strike was called by Santaco, “as a matter of logic they bear responsibility”.

Advocate Morne Basson, for Santaco, said that Santaco was a taxi owners’ association. Taxi drivers were not necessarily the owners and thus were not Santaco’s responsibility. Basson questioned how Santaco could be expected, as an administrative organisation, to know exactly who was involved with acts of criminality.

He said a statement sent out by Santaco on Monday, calling for calm, amounted to “sufficient and reasonable steps” to comply with Sunday’s court order and that any contempt application had to be brought against individual people and not an organisation.

Basson said those who engaged in violence were “rogue”, that it was up to the police to investigate, and that the judge should not take cognisance of “fake news”.

In response to a question by the judge, as to how he should deal with the acts of violence on Monday, Basson said: “To be honest, I don’t know how you should deal with that. We have informed our members not to engage in any such activity. We sent the circular around yesterday of the statement attached to the court order … people have been arrested … the wheels of justice have started to turn.” DM

First published by GroundUp.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    The anarchy on the streets of Cape Town once again points to the incompetence and negligence of Cele and his ANC cadre police hierarchy. They are totalling lacking in intelligence gathering and have to ability to stop the violence.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      In fact, while the idiot denies it, it seems obvious he was stirring up the whole thing by visiting the Santaco thugs without telling the council he was going there. Him and that disgraceful Transport Minister are the ones with blood on their hands.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The need for this interdict baffles me.

    It’s like having to put the warning “may contain traces of nut” on a bag of peanuts.

  • cathy.wardle says:

    Santaco is just another mafia organization

  • Peter Doble says:

    It is quite bizarre that elected governments need a legal judge to impose laws which exist! Full marks to the WC/CoCT administration – the only authority in this country that actually does its job while the rest of SA sinks further into the anarchic abyss.

  • Max Ozinsky says:

    The DA’s moonshot looks more and more like a shot in the foot.

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      “The DA’s moonshot looks more and more like a shot in the foot.”

      What on earth does the DA’s moonshot pact got to do with the illegal and thuggish behaviour of the taxi associations, taxi owners and taxi drivers??

  • Zilla North says:

    With no foot to stand on, the taxi organizations are throwing a temper tantrum. But as any parent knows, if you give in to the tantrum you spoil the child. Hold fast CoCT!

  • And what difference will this make! We already have laws in place preventing this violence. The problem is the police are totally inept at enforcing them.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Look beyond what this looks like and see that this is politically motivated. This violence is orchestrated and being fed from elsewhere using social media – it’s not about a by law. It’s a faction fight for power and intimidation for the next election. Why else would Bheki Cele and CR be so silent?
    Like the Russians have done in Ukraine however…perhaps the ANC and EFF have bitten off more than they can chew! The DA and the people of Cape Town will not be intimidated just like Zelensky and the people of Ukraine will not be intimidated.

  • Julian Chandler says:

    Simple solution:
    Ban minibus taxis from operating within the CoT, or the Western Cape altogether.
    Then, real public transport can operate properly.

  • andrew farrer says:

    Well cyril’s visiting tomorrow, maybe he’ll bring his saps Mariakna crew to deal with the taxis

  • Maureen Bassill says:

    Bolt and Uber drivers in Nomzamo, Strand have had their cars impounded by ‘people not from Nomzamo’. It is very much doubted that the drivers will see their cars again.

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