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Court dismisses Santaco’s bid to interdict City of Cape Town from impounding taxis 

Court dismisses Santaco’s bid to interdict City of Cape Town from impounding taxis 
Minibus taxis blocking the Airport Approach Road in Cape Town are seized during the minibus taxi strike on 7 August 2023. The impounding of taxis was at the centre of the taxi strike, which lasted for more than a week. (Photo: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais)

Santaco has failed to get an interdict against the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government and the court has made the 10 August agreement between the parties an order of the court. 

The Western Cape High Court has dismissed the SA National Taxi Council’s (Santaco) bid to interdict the Western Cape and City of Cape Town to stop taxi impoundments that the organisation said were happening outside the ambit of the agreement that was signed on 10 August. 

Read more on Daily Maverick: Santaco gained nothing from taxi strike – instead, everyone lost, mainly the poor, says Cape Town mayor

Santaco had also submitted that the authorities were not abiding by the agreement that ended the more than week-long taxi stayaway that resulted in five deaths, business losses and destruction to properties. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape taxi strike updates

Justice Derek Wille made the agreement signed by the parties an order of the court meaning all parties must abide by it. 

The agreement states: “From 1 August to 25 August, the City’s officials will exercise the discretion granted to them under the legislation so that only the offences listed below will give rise to impoundment of taxis. Taxis which are being driven on our roads:

  • Without an operating licence; 
  • Without a PDP/driver’s licence; or 
  • Which are unroadworthy.

While losing the interdict bid, Santaco will declare victory in this regard as the agreement restricts taxi impoundments to the three offences. Santaco has always claimed that their vehicles were being impounded using municipal traffic bylaws, while the municipality has been adamant that the impounding follows the terms of national legislation. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Santaco and City of Cape Town’s taxi impoundment agreement on shaky ground

Santaco also wanted the immediate release of the taxis impounded over the weekend but were unsuccessful. 

Mayor Geordin hill-Lewis confirmed, however, that the City has released eight of the 14 taxis that were impounded last weekend.

What Santaco said in court

Santaco told the court that when it called the stayaway, instead of building up to it to ensure that commuters would have adequate alternative transport at their disposal, the City of Cape Town retaliated by embarking on even harsher impoundment measures in the CBD. 

“This operation culminated in an unfortunate incident on 2 August 2023. The video depicts a violent abuse of power by law enforcement, against the driver, the taxi and other occupants in flagrant disregard of both their common law and constitutional rights.” 

Santaco also presented evidence that Hill-Lewis was not being honest when he said that the taxi body had ended up accepting the same terms that were presented to them before the taxi strike. Santaco said the evidence showed that the initial terms included reckless and negligent driving as impoundable offences. These are not covered by national legislation and the terms of the agreement. 

Read on Daily Maverick: Santaco gained nothing from taxi strike – instead, everyone lost, mainly the poor, says Cape Town mayor

The documentation included letters from MEC of Mobility Ricardo Mackenzie outlining the government’s proposal to Santaco. The letters included some of the new traffic bylaws which Santaco rejected.

The council said it had information that its vehicles were not only targeted but also that there are quotas to be met relating to the number of taxis that should be impounded. 

“As we understand the evidence, the quota is five minibus taxis per area per day, and 35 in total per area per week. We believe that spreadsheets have been drafted to ensure compliance, and the area heads are raked over the coals if such quotas are not met.” 

The City’s response

In the responding affidavit, Hill-Lewis argued that no proper case was presented by Santaco and denied that the City has quotas to impound taxis. 

“The City denies any allegations that their conduct was mala fide or ‘targeting’ the taxis at any time, and such allegations are denied with contempt. The applicant makes the unfounded assertion that the City has acted unlawfully without any basis or foundation. All of the allegations made by the applicant are mere assertions and not supported by facts.” 

Hill-Lewis accused Santaco of misrepresenting what was agreed upon by the parties and said this was not only unfortunate, but also dangerous as it would create a false expectation on the part of the taxi drivers and result in potentially violent responses when City traffic officials continue to impound for the agreed-upon offences listed in the agreement.

While Santaco was not granted the interdict, deputy chairperson Nceba Enge said it feels vindicated, because minibus taxis can only be impounded on the three grounds that have been agreed upon.

“These exclude the contravention of any condition imposed on Operating Licences, which includes but is not limited to operating off-route, contrary to the position trumpet out by both the Mayor and Mr JP Smith to the public, in the process unjustly vilifying the taxi industry in the eyes of the public.”

He said the organisation remains hopeful that the stakeholders can put this issue behind them and focus on the task ahead for the taxi task team.

Hill-Lewis said the City welcomes the ruling and that it will go a long way to ending deliberate misinformation about the agreement being spread, and lessening potential for conflict between taxi operators and officers on roads.

“The Court has also dismissed Santaco’s interdict application, confirming our view that there is firm legal basis for impoundments in the interest of commuter safety. Impoundments will continue under the National Land Transport Act based on the agreed offences, while the Taxi Team concludes its work within the 14-day period.” 

The task team is expected to carry on with its work next week, and Hill-Lewis said the City is looking to ensure that offences that endanger the lives of road users will remain as impoundable in line with the national law. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “These exclude the contravention of any condition imposed on Operating Licences, which includes but is not limited to operating off-route, contrary to the position trumpet out by both the Mayor and Mr JP Smith to the public, in the process unjustly vilifying the taxi industry in the eyes of the public.”

    We don’t need anyone to vilify the taxi industry – especially the owners, who seem to be the ones creaming the money – as we have seen how you people vilify yourselves by your disgraceful actions every day, particularly with the ridiculous strike two weeks ago.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    I wonder if Santaco brought rifles the court hearing. Well done DA for ensuring that law and order applies to all.
    As an aside, surely drivers should be arrested for ‘reckless driving’?

  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    Santago claims that taxis can’t be impounded for operating off route. But surely the operating licence defines the route.

    One of the complaints is that the city fails to issue operating licenses.

    Thus being off route would constitute operating without a license and thus can be impounded.

  • Gregory Scott says:

    It would be interesting to know whether there was any meaningful change in road fatalities in Cape Town during the taxi strike.

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