A FOR [EFF]ORT
In photos – Red Beret protesters feel the heat during long walk to the Ndabeni taxi impound in Cape Town
Taxi-related protests often cause traffic chaos and commuter headaches in Cape Town. On Monday, the suffering was most felt by the protesters themselves who had to walk for about three hours to get their message against impoundments across to authorities. The signs of strain and tiredness were all too evident.
A day of protest commenced at the open field across from Vangate Mall in Athlone, where protesters gathered for a march. Despite the intended start time of 9:00, the march eventually kicked off around 12:00.
Protesters, mostly supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters, braved the scorching Spring sun on Monday to walk about 14 km (give or take, depending on individual back and forth movements).
This is by far one of the longest distances protesters have had to walk in recent times, just to deliver a memorandum to the city.
This was largely framed by the EFF as a protest against taxi impoundments but grievances included a lack of service delivery.
Read more in Daily Maverick: EFF’s protest against taxi impoundments in Cape Town draws little support
Led by the police at the front, the participants proceeded. As it continued, the temperature steadily rose, and the protestors began to feel increasingly sluggish as they approached their destination of Ndabeni Transport Impound.
Marchers intermittently paused to rest. Upon reaching Langa, the Red Beret members asked for water from local residents. They went to a community tap in Langa with bottles to quench their thirst.
At times, the protest seemed akin to an arduous Sunday “fun” run. One woman marched with an umbrella to shield herself from the sun.
Some drivers on the opposite side of the road were also seen throwing bottles of drinking water and other drinks at times. Others were hooting for the crowd which consisted mostly of people trundling along with their hands on their waists.
The EFF did not make water points available for the marchers.
A clearly exhausted man who only identified himself as Mboneni said he was a taxi driver and wanted to complete the long walk even if it meant collapsing.
“Exhaustion is a matter of the mind,” he said. “If I fall before arriving at our destination, they must pour water on me but I would have tried because the goal is to highlight our struggle. I can feel my legs want to give up but my mind is focused on the goal.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi strike – Some facts on how big the industry is, how much drivers make and the role in crime
Another woman jokingly said she had already lost over 10 kilograms. “I have never walked this far,” she said. “The sun is not making it easy for us but we will soldier on. I might have blisters in the end but history will remember this day.”
As the marchers approached Pinelands, some went to houses and businesses asking for water. Others sat down under tree shade, away from the sun.
There were instances where marchers climbed onto the back of vehicles that were attempting to manoeuvre around them during the protest, including a municipal ambulance.
The route the marchers took was as follows: Participants turned left into Jakes Gerwel north bound, left into Viking Road on to Jan Smuts Rd into SunRise circle and on to Berkley Road.
Their arrival in Pinelands felt like a significant milestone in the journey. They pressed on and finally arrived at the heavily guarded Ndabeni Transport Depot.
Taxi drivers among the protestors exclaimed that hundreds of impounded taxis sat behind the locked gates of the depot.
Despite exhaustion, the crowd displayed remarkable resilience. One of the EFF’s spokespeople mentioned, throughout the day, that the participants were true “Fighters”.
While some protestors continued with songs and listening to speeches, others turned to recovery and rested their weary legs. DM
Update – This article has been corrected to reflect that the total distance of the protest walk was about 14.4km, not 20km as initially indicated. The EFF has claimed that the total distance of the route was just over 10km. This reporter clocked a total of 17.3 km on his app.