With taxi violence continuing in Cape Town as members of the South African National Taxi Association (SANTACO) remain in talks with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, the City has called for government to remove power from taxi associations and hand authority over to regulatory bodies. 

Thousands of commuters were left stranded at bus terminals in the pouring rain on Monday night as relentless violence forced public transport operators like Golden Arrow busses to suspend operations. 

City urge judiciary to prosecute those responsible 

Speaking to eNCA on Tuesday City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, said that metro police had to resort to escorting Golden Arrow busses to various destinations along routes where it was assessed that there was risk of violence. A Golden Arrow bus driver was shot on Monday morning while other shooting incidents led to arrests in Langa, and Smith said that escorting jeopardised public transport operators is not a sustainable intervention.

“We have a two-pronged effective response from the City to this violence – the one side is to do random stop-and-searches of minibus taxis and suspicious vehicles. That has led to some arrests, and last week our CCTV cameras picked up a white vehicle shadowing some of the taxis. Metro police stopped them and found three men with firearms and a huge amount of ammunition. We anticipate that was shooting related,” he said.  

He said that the City and its law enforcement agencies alone have made five arrests relating to the taxi wars, and urged the criminal justice system to begin prosecuting those responsible. 

“It can’t be that you have all these assassinations and shootings and no consequences,” he said. 

Impound operations underway for ‘pirate’ vehicles  

Smith said that the City is also carrying out operations to impound rogue or “pirate” taxis that are found to be off-route, saying that these vehicles fuel the violence. 

“You can go look at the pounds in Maitland – they are chockablock full. We are doing the most that we can from the City’s side, and provincial government has evoked section 921 of the Act, which will possibly come into effect from tomorrow and we will assist in enforcing those provisions,” said Smith. 

While Smith acknowledged that a conflict around the Paarl/Bellville route and the ownership of six permits – as well as whether these permits are owned by the association or the individual license holders – is the fundamental issue fuelling the unrest, he said that there are more malicious factors sparking the violence. 

“I believe that some thing more sinister at play here though,” he said. “After having dismantled most of the rail industry, certain members of the taxi industry are now trying to destroy Golden Arrow busses. The violence has different agendas that are being played out, and I fear that if the taxi association has an exclusive monopoly on public transport, the consequences will be terrible.”

Taxi associations ‘must be removed from legislature’ – Smith  

Smith said that ultimately, the best way to resolve the taxi war is for national government to step in and put in place reform within the industry. 

“Those levers sit in the hand of national government – we were glad to see Minister Mbalula here, but I’m afraid those interactions haven’t resulted in consequences,” he said 

“In fact, it was evident on Monday morning that the taxi associations are acting in bad faith. What must also happen is government must remove the role played by these associations and mother bodies from the national legislation. At the moment members are required to get an operating permit, so you are entrenching them in this process as a gatekeeper, and unfortunately also as organised crime syndicates to some extent.”

“This can’t carry on and they must be removed from the legislation and the relationship directly between the applicants and the regulatory authority must be established.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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