City will not budge on taxi route

A large audience gathered at Imizamo Yethus Yellow Hall on Tuesday.

The City of Cape Town says it cannot support new taxi operating licences for the Hout Bay-Cape Town route.

The taxi protests that flared up in Hout Bay on Thursday June 28 were as a result of the Hout Bay-Wynberg Taxi Association, associated to the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), accusing drivers associated with the Congress for Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) of illegally operating along the route. The Hout Bay operators also claim that they are being unfairly targeted by having their vehicles impounded by the City.

In a statement to the Sentinel on Thursday afternoon, Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said Hout Bay-Cape Town route operators were compensated as part of the MyCiTi roll-out.

The operating licences on this route have already been rationalised and we cannot now support new operating licences for that route. Operators were compensated to exit that route – since it is a route operated by MyCiTi – and granting permits would thus make those payments redundant,” Mr Herron said.

“The operators who had Hout Bay operating licences were compensated and their licences were cancelled in November and December 2013.”

He pointed out that none of the Codeta-affiliated taxi associations had the authority to operate between Cape Town and Hout Bay.

“The City has engaged with the operators on several occasions on this issue and clarified during all deliberations that the City will not consider supporting any operating licences on a route that is already rationalised as part of the MyCiti roll-out.”

At a meeting earlier this week, prior to Thursday’s protest, Hout Bay-Wynberg taxi bosses told community members that the route was the source of contention.

Wynberg-Hout Bay Taxi Association vice-chairperson Shakes Tyhopolwana addressed a packed meeting in Imizamo Yethu on Tuesday.

About 250 residents filled the Yellow Hall where members of the association’s executive pointed to long-standing tensions over a Hout Bay-Cape Town route. Several drivers have been killed as the violence has escalated.

On February 22, a 22-year-old man was killed during a shooting outside the OK Mini-Mart in Hout Bay. This was followed by the murder of Mvuzo Ntakana, 37, in Main Road on Monday April 23, and most recently, Phindile Parafien, 43, was gunned down on the corner of Main Road and Mandela Road on Friday June 1.

Terrified commuters are now fearful of stepping into minibus taxis to get to and from work, while there is also a feeling that it is only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is caught in the crossfire.

All the killings have taken place in well-populated areas.

According to Mr Tyhopolwana, the Hout Bay-Cape Town route is at the heart of the conflict.

“As part of the deal between the City of Cape Town and the taxi associations, the City paid Codeta compensation to no longer use this route because it would be used by MyCiTi buses,” Mr Tyhopolwana said.
“But what we have seen is that there are still Codeta taxis using this route illegally, yet we, as an association, have not been allowed to use it.

“Now we are seeing taxis with Codeta’s red sticker. These drivers should not be allowed to drive this route, but if this is going to be allowed, then we feel that we should share it.”

Codeta representatives were not at the meeting. But later, spokesman Besuthu Ndungane said he did not want to comment on the meeting.

When the meeting was opened to the floor, residents asked why the Hout Bay-Wynberg Taxi Association had taken so long to address the issue.

Mr Tyhopolwana said it was the association’s understanding that the route had been sold to the City, and they had tried to clarify why these drivers were allowed to operate on the route.

As the meeting continued, it became clear that most of the audience wanted the local association to operate the route as well.

“We came here tonight to answer the community’s questions and be open about it. We want to brief the community on exactly what is happening,” Mr Tyhopolwana said.

“The main thing is that we can’t have any more violence. This needs to be sorted out.”

The executive announced that they would be engaging with the City to find a resolution to the impasse, so that Hout Bay commuters and residents could once again feel safe.

Audience members said it had come to the point where they often did not recognise taxi drivers as had been the case in the past. That alone made them nervous because they did not want to travel with strangers.

On Sunday, Police Minister Bheki Cele threatened that he would have no hesitation in shutting down taxi ranks in the Western Cape if people continued to die in taxi violence.

“As government, we need to rise and protect the vulnerable. We cannot allow a situation of bloodshed and lawlessness on our roads. The full might of the law will be felt and heard in all corners,” he said.

“Saturation of routes need to be looked into and clarified by government, hijacking of taxi routes by associations needs to be corrected. Those that are operating illegally on the routes … police must be seen doing their job and arresting perpetrators. It can’t happen that you kill someone and go home to sleep.”

* This article has been updated from today’s print edition.

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