Cape Town taxi strike – Looted malls and stores count the costs
For eight turbulent days, Cape Town was in the grip of a taxi strike that saw incidents of violence, including five deaths. Some areas reported opportunistic looting of malls and stores, which are now beginning to count the costs.
Several shop owners in Cape Town were picking up the pieces at the weekend after looting during the eight-day taxi strike.
Five people have been arrested in Gugulethu in connection with the looting and more arrests are expected, police said.
Read more in Daily Maverick about the impact on schools: More than 70% of learners unable to get to school in one day during the strike
Videos have been circulating on social media of people fleeing with stolen goods such as TVs, refrigerators and other expensive items from stores.
The OK Furniture store, in Gugulethu Square, was one of the stores affected.
“People apparently believed there were TVs in the boxes in the store’s storage room when in fact there were bicycles inside the boxes,” store manager Vuyokazi Yedwa said.
Yedwa told Daily Maverick the furniture store’s storage room was later welded shut to prevent further looting during the strike.
“We’re unable to calculate how much was looted from the store and storage area. We are waiting for a welding business to open the welded door,” she said.
The looting was reported to Gugulethu police last Tuesday.
Five suspects arrested
Colonel Andre Traut, spokesman for the Western Cape SAPS, told Daily Maverick that looters made off with items such as household appliances, clothing and alcohol from stores in Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Kraaifontein.
“Five suspects were arrested in Gugulethu for possessing suspected stolen property and are being detained until they are scheduled for a court appearance,” Traut said.
He said more arrests are expected as police continue their investigations.
Read more in Daily Maverick: A great relief’ — Santaco calls off Western Cape taxi strike
As reported by GroundUp, criminals took advantage of the chaos caused by the taxi strike by hijacking cars, robbing stores and setting infrastructure alight.
According to reports, several stores had to shut their doors in Kraaifontein after looting. In nearby Wallacedene informal settlement, meanwhile, most Somali-owned shops were robbed and burnt down.
Elderly queue for essentials
The Philippi Junction Mall, which has been being closed since Monday because of the looting, reopened to the public on Thursday. On Friday, there were long queues outside stores as people, many of them elderly, waited to buy essentials.
“People are walking from far just to come buy essentials, with the potential to get robbed as the lines stretch to dangerous parts of the township,” Philippi resident Yola Schalk told Daily Maverick on Friday.
“Yesterday morning the mall opened and I witnessed how essential foods like bread and milk were ridiculously highly priced. Food supply also decreased as many people were there to buy food; as a result, Shoprite closed earlier than usual,” Schalk said.
Ivo Lalone, who owns Malapih Furniture and Electrical Appliances in Site C Plaza, Khayelitsha, said although his store escaped the looting, his car wasn’t as lucky.
“My car was tragically vandalised; I don’t understand why individuals would choose to damage other’s properties in a demonstration that targets taxi drivers and not just anyone,” he said. “My store wasn’t robbed or broken into, fortunately.”
At least five people were killed during the taxi strike, which started on Thursday, 3 August, after several taxis were impounded by law enforcement officials. In addition, several buses, trucks and private vehicles were torched and stoned.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) called off the strike on Thursday, 10 August, following successful negotiations with the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town.
“We stand with you in this time of grief and offer our profound sympathies. We also extend our heartfelt sympathy to everyone who was negatively affected by the events of the past days,” Santaco chairperson Mandla Hermanus said on Thursday evening.
“We pledge our ongoing commitment to serve our communities with integrity, ensuring such incidents do not repeat in the future,” he said. DM
Additional reporting by Chuma Nontsele and Jim Mohlala