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TRANSPORT STRIFE

Acts of kindness, solidarity and community spirit emerge in the wake of Western Cape taxi strike violence

Acts of kindness, solidarity and community spirit emerge in the wake of Western Cape taxi strike violence
Hundreds of people walk home on the N2 in Cape Town on 3 August 2023 after taxi operators went on strike. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Ordinary South Africans go ‘above and beyond’ to help people whose lives have been severely disrupted by the Western Cape taxi strike after Cape Town was gripped by lawlessness, attacks on transport routes and infrastructure, and the deaths of at least five people.

The City of Cape Town has been engulfed by bus burnings, commuter disruptions and road closures because of the Western Cape taxi strike. But amid the violence and destruction, there’s kindness and compassion among strangers.

South Africans tend to show solidarity and community spirit in the face of danger.

Both the July 2021 riots and the more recent public healthcare workers’ strike saw ordinary citizens pitching in to clean, cook, heal and help people.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) taxi strike – which began in the Western Cape on 3 August – has brought another round of disruption.

Cape Town was gripped by lawlessness, with attacks on transport routes and infrastructure, and the deaths of at least five people.

Working-class commuters living on the periphery of the city were most affected by the sudden withdrawal of taxi services, with thousands stranded far from home. Yet, in the thick of the disruption, South Africans arrived to help.

Khanya Nohaba rescued a dog that jumped out of a car window when its owner was attacked by stone throwers in Philippi. (Photo: Supplied)

A dog’s way home

On the first day of the strike, 13-year-old Khanya Nohaba rescued a dog that jumped out of a car window when its owner was attacked by stone throwers in Philippi.

“My heart was already heavy due to the violence … My friends and I saw a car being attacked and a sausage dog jumped out of the car. The owner asked me to get the dog for him,” recalled Khanya.

“I really love dogs. I don’t consider them animals at all. When I’m around dogs, I forget everything going on and immediately become happy,” he told Daily Maverick.

Khanya raced after the fleeing pooch.

“The dog was very adventurous, running into our local tavern and being chased out … I managed to pick it up, but when we got back, its owner was not there.”

The boy took the dog home.

His mother Irene Nohaba commented: “My son loves dogs, they follow him,” said Irene. “This has been noticed. Some in our community consult him when their dogs are ill and he makes a plan – even walking to an animal welfare in Lansdowne,” she added.

The next day Khanya saw an advert about the dog, with a reward offered for its return.

“The owner sent the police to get the dog as he lives quite far. We handed it over, but I did not claim the reward; it didn’t feel right. I am just happy he is now safe,” said Khanya.

Ntokozo Ngxwashu, a human resources intern at the SA Police Service provincial office. (Photo: Supplied)

‘A heartfelt moment’

Silence descended on taxi ranks as the last drivers on strike departed at 4pm. Stranded commuters in the city centre rushed to a nearby bus station, but buses were overcrowded with people desperate to get home to their families.

Ntokozo Ngxwashu, a human resources intern at the SA Police Service (SAPS) provincial office, was one of them.

“I was not aware there would be a strike,” he recalled. “I was immediately released from the office to rush home. At the taxi rank, there were a few taxis taking Gugulethu passengers and those were the last four taxis to operate that day.

“I got a call from my uncle, checking up on me. I told him I was depending on him to get home because there are no taxis and the bus terminals were crowded,” said Ngxwashu.

After Ngxwashu arranged to be picked up by his uncle – an Uber driver – he remembered three women he’d queued with in vain for a taxi.

“I rushed back to the taxi rank [to look] for them,” he said. With them he found a young Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) student who only had enough cash for taxi fare.

“I approached the CPUT student, and I took her number and offered her money so she can pay my uncle with the other ladies who already agreed to ride with us.”

When his uncle arrived, he had a client in the car. Ngxwashu asked if all the women could ride with them and eventually agreement was reached.

Ngxwashu said helping others aligned with his work ethic and spiritual beliefs. As a human resources intern, he understood public service.

“It is to keep the communities and the people safe from any kind of danger. Also, that is a background principle that aligns with my spiritual life.”

On his way home, Ngxwashu saw other displays of kindness. He described seeing a man offering a lift to an old woman walking home from the CBD.

“She looked tired and she was walking alone. That was a very heartfelt moment.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape taxi strike updates

Small-town compassion

The Western Cape taxi strike has affected the greater Cape Town region and many areas further afield, including Plettenberg Bay, George and Knysna.

On Monday night, a section of the N2 in Plettenberg Bay was blocked with burning tyres, and people hurled stones at passing cars, HeraldLive reported.

Bitou Municipality mayor Dave Swart said public order policing had to be called in from George.

As working people from Qolweni and Kwanokuthula informal settlements tried to get to work in Plettenberg Bay, residents of the seaside town stepped up.

Kim Fichardt spent day after day transporting people from Kwanokuthula, along the N2, to their workplaces.

“I can’t bear seeing someone on the side of the road who is desperate to get to work … to get their money on the table to feed their families. And I’m happy to offer my help. I’m not silly; I have to be careful. I just can’t not help them,” said Fichardt.

“What is it to me to spend an extra hour [giving] people [a lift], when, at the end of the day, they just desperately need to get money to feed themselves and their families?”

Fichardt said many other residents had worked together and gone “above and beyond” to provide transport.

“The Plett community is unbelievable … Everyone is concerned about everyone’s safety.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    We the citizens are better than anything thrown at us we overcome evil by doing good

    • heynsleon says:

      “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing” – said by a clever man once upon a time….and LIVED by many thereafter 🙂

  • John Smythe says:

    I wonder what restitution SANTACO is offering.

  • spamanager says:

    Thank you very much for these stories, they are most welcome when surrounded by all the negative news – thank you to everyone who despite these dark times does not forget their humanity , even the slightest glimmer of hope in humanity is worth reaching for

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