‘Allegations of illegal activities will be investigated’

Police stand between members of the two rival taxi associations.

During this week’s stand-off between rival taxi associations on Main Road, Hout Bay, drivers aligned with the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) alleged that some officers at the Hout Bay police station were moonlighting as taxi operators.

This, they claimed to the Sentinel on Monday July 30, was why police were “siding” with the Hout Bay-Wynberg Taxi Association when clashes broke out in Hout Bay.

We put these claims to Hout Bay police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch, specifically asking whether there were officers at the station who had declared their taxi interests to SAPS.

Warrant Officer Lesch said: “If there are allegations regarding any illegal activities by SAPS members, the community can report it to IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate), the station commander or the provincial office, and it will be investigated. SAPS are there to protect and serve all communities and will address any reported crime.”

Again the Sentinel asked her whether some Hout Bay SAPS officers were also taxi operators and she replied: “As I indicated, if there are allegations they need to come forward with the information by reporting it. We cannot follow up on allegations.”
The Sentinel then pointed out that we were not asking whether allegations were being investigated but whether there were any officers at Hout Bay SAPS, from the lowest rank to the highest, who had declared their interests in being taxi operators over and above their employment as police officers.

Warrant Officer Lesch did not respond to that question by the time this edition went to print.

Taxi violence has flared in Hout Bay this year with Hout Bay-Wynberg Taxi Association, affiliated to the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), accusing drivers aligned with Codeta of illegally operating along the Hout Bay-Cape Town route. Hout Bay-Cape Town route operators were compensated financially as part of the MyCiTi roll-out (“City will not budge on taxi route,” Sentinel, June 29).

On Monday July 30, taxi drivers from the Hout Bay-Wynberg Taxi Association circled their vehicles to block Main Road after claiming their drivers had been threatened by drivers aligned with Codeta.

The local drivers alleged that in the early hours of Monday, they had been prevented from loading after “four or five” Codeta-aligned drivers threatened them with pistols and rifles.

Driver Mkhululi Ndude said he ad been targeted and even chased after driving away from the area. At that point, he raised the alarm and other Hout Bay-Wynberg drivers quickly descended on the scene to “box in” the alleged perpetrators.

Community leader Samkelo Krweqe said that on previous occasions, Codeta drivers had targeted local drivers and immediately fled the scene. This time, the local drivers had wanted to ensure the police could see for themselves who was responsible for the violence.

Police, including officers from Public Order Policing, quickly arrived, placing their vehicles between the rival factions in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Main Road was eventually opened to traffic.

As the stand-off ensued, the Sentinel spoke to several Codeta drivers on condition of anonymity. The men claimed it was “well-known” that some Hout Bay police officers were also taxi operators, and, for this reason, they showed bias towards the local drivers and wanted the Codeta drivers out of Hout Bay.

However, Mr Krweqe said the Codeta drivers were “lying to paint our police in a bad light”.

“If this was true, they could easily make a case at the police station. When somebody says something like that, they are doing it to take attention away from themselves because they know they are guilty.”

MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the DA’s spokesperson on police, said that four years ago, the government’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) undertook an investigation that revealed 27 000 police officers were moonlighting in other careers.

“(This is) hardly surprising when one discovers that so many members have sat without promotion for some 20 years. Police nearing retirement are having to face the cold hard fact that they will have to work on after retirement in order to pay the bills,” Ms Kohler-Barnard said.

“In Durban, it is common practice for SAPS officers to run security companies, usually with a spouse answering the telephones, and using SAPS equipment such as vehicles and firearms to answer the emergency calls. Indeed, after-hours police members are frequently doing second jobs, from driving Uber taxis, to running bars.”

She said this work provided an immediate conflict of interest in protecting taxi routes or enforcing the liquor laws, for exam-

“Once an officer is involved in other work, one finds they will automatically bend the law to protect that source of income and avoid being caught out.”

Ms Kohler-Barnard said it was “totally against regulations” to work outside of the SAPS employment without having declared and obtained specific permission to do so.

“Yet it is common practice, and the upper echelons simply turn a blind eye to the problem, knowing as they do that their officers are in the position of earning too little to obtain a bond, but too much to entitle them to an RDP house. After decades of a virtual freeze on promotions, it is commonplace to have officers working two or even three jobs to make ends meet.

“There is a hope that the promised promotions will materialise, and that would do much to boost morale. It may not pay the bills, but it would boost morale.”