‘Fire and stones will not resolve anything’

Firefighters extinguish a burning barricade after rioting by taxi drivers in Hout Bay on Monday.

There is an uneasy peace in Hout Bay after taxi drivers went on a violent rampage on Monday, burning tyres, and blocking main roads.

The City suspended its MyCiTi and Dial-a-Ride services after a MyCiTi bus was petrol-bombed and other buses and private vehicles were stoned, and police had to use stun grenades to disperse rioters.

The violence followed a crackdown by law enforcement on illegal and unroadworthy taxis, and drivers accused the City of not making good on promises to compensate them for losses they claim to have suffered after a new MyCiTi route was introduced to service the area.

The MyCiTi and Dial-a-Ride services were restored on Wednesday after the City met with the Hout Bay Taxi Association to hear its grievances.

Drivers told the Sentinel that compensation promised by the City had not materialised.

“Promises were made and are still being made,” said a driver who only gave his name as Arthur.

There had been many meetings with the City, but drivers had had enough, he said.

“We are told to wait until a ruling; they call meetings, we call meetings and this is all after being told that we will be paid out. The City made these promises, and now we have to go to a court to decide.”

Another driver, who didn’t want his name published, said: “The City was happy to make agreements with us, promise us money and get us to agree. Now they are changing their tune. We have waited for long enough.”

Florence Mashumela, said she usually left her Imizamo Yethu home at 5am to get to work in Pinelands but because of the rioting, she had struggled to find transport on Monday after leaving a little later than usual.

“I always avoid any traffic, but only this week I had to take my daughter to school and I was caught in this mess. If I cannot work, my children cannot eat because we have to live from day to day.”

Mayoral committee member of urban mobility Roberto Quintas said the City had discussed the compensation issue with the HBTA since 2014. The association was now taking the City to court and the matter was due to be heard in the Western Cape High Court in July next year.

“The City is awaiting the court’s ruling on this matter,” he said.

The drivers had also been upset about delays in applying for operating licences, and talks this week on that issue had been “fruitful and promising”, he said.

“The City has committed to assisting the association by facilitating some of the administrative bottlenecks they say they are experiencing with the operating licence application processes.”

However, he added, the City would not bow to the association’s demand for MyCiTi to only run up until Llaundudno and exclude Hout Bay.

“These are unrealistic demands on the City. It cannot be considered in any way and would be contradicting what I have always said … that Capetonians need to be spoilt for choice when it comes to various modes of public transport. There is not, and has never been, an embargo on amaphela or minibus taxis operating in Hout Bay. Any legal and permitted taxi can still continue to operate in the area.”

He condemned the violence that had led to the earlier suspension of the MyCiTi service.

“Fire and stones will not resolve anything. We all need to abide by the law and engage in a peaceful and respectful manner.

“Any behaviour that results in learners and workers not being able to commute, as well residents feeling unsafe and being the victims of violence, and any damages to public or private property must be condemned for the thuggish and brutish activities that they are.”

Hout Bay police station commander Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Syster confirmed that two cases were opened at the station for damages to vehicles.

About 30 people had gathered at the Imizamo Yethu circle at about 6.45am on Monday and had later identified themselves as members of the HBTA, he said.

“They listed their main reasons for the protest as a result of an ongoing court battle between the association and the City of Cape Town as well as the impounding of amaphela taxis.”

The group had grown in size, created burning barricades and blocked entrances at the Imizamo Yethu and Valley Road circles and the Suikerbossie traffic lights before being dispersed by riot police using stun grenades, he said.

“At approximately 2pm, all protest action had ceased and the burnt debris and rubble was cleared,” he said. “The situation remains calm at present.”

Despite numerous attempts, we were unable to get comment from the HBTA by time of publication.

Traffic services clear debris from Victoria Road.
The Imizamo Yethu Circle was barricaded with burning tyres and rubble.