Focus on taxi violence

Western Cape provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, speaks on the successes made by Hout Bay police following taxi violence in the area.

Disgruntled and fearful Hout Bay residents turned up in masses on Monday to hear Police Minister Bheki Cele address the recent taxi violence upheaval in the area.

The minister was joined by other top police officials, as well as provincial and local government officials, including MEC for Community Safety Alan Winde, and Hout Bay ward councillor Roberto Quintas.

The officials were met by a packed-to-the-brim room of solution-seeking residents at the Hout Bay sports field. Members of the taxi associations Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), were also in attendance – they were invited by the police officials to help find solutions to this ongoing con-
flict.

The conflict, which resulted in the deaths of five people, is believed to be related to a year-long dispute over routes between these two taxi associations (“Taxi violence continues in Hout Bay”, Sentinel News, April 5) – both wanting access to the route whose permits were taken over by MyCiTi.

Hout Bay resident Zoleka Ndela, a 21-year-old student, said the taxi violence hasn’t only disrupted her daily routine, but has left her fearing for her and her family’s life.

“My brother is a taxi driver and my uncle a taxi owner. As soon as they leave the house, I’m scared something might happen to them.”

Zoleka said last week’s shooting especially struck a nerve. “My brother left home at 4.30am, and the shootings took place soon after. I was scared that something might have happened to him. I’m scared every time he leaves home.”

While addressing the crowd,
Mr Cele said every one should remember that neighbourhoods aren’t places for violence, but where children play and grow.

“Every child should be given the opportunity to play, run around, and be children. [But in this area] they can’t because it’s become a war zone.”

During the meeting Western Cape provincial police commissioner,Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, spoke on the successes made by Hout Bay police following the recent taxi violence.

“Since the taxi violence incidents we’re employing safer policing notions. We’ve established 53 vehicle checkpoints, searched 100 taxis, impounded 97 minibuses, and issued 345 fines to the value of R309 800.”

Lieutenant-General Jula then emphasised that the goal of the meeting was to find sustainable methods for upholding peace in the area.

Mr Quintas told the Sentinel News government officials and taxi operators are currently in talks to initiate a process of peace agreement negotiations between all taxi operators in the Hout Bay area. But until such
an agreement is reached taxi services in the area have been halted.

“An administrative suspension of taxi associations and services is in place until September. However, should stakeholders between government’s safety and transport departments and operators be able to reach a way forward where we see safety and meaningful commitments to address not only violence, but also improved driving and road usage, we will negotiate a lift of the suspension.”

Mr Quintas further expressed his gratitude to Hout Bay residents for keeping composure during the unrest. 

“I would like to thank all residents of Hout Bay for maintaining calm in the face of this ongoing criminal activity and acts of public violence in the ward over the past year. I am fully committed to keeping the pressure on in terms of City traffic services and enforcement as well as applying the necessary pressure on the South African Police Services in terms of investigations and arrests of the rogue elements that have brought death and violence on to our streets. We can no longer be beholden to wholesale criminal activity which claims lives, creates fear and disrupts the everyday lives and business of our residents.”

Another student and resident, Nathi Magyyac, 21, said the suspension of the taxi services, which will last until September 30, as per police and government officials’ instruction, has left her to adjust her daily routine. “My only transport option now is MyCiTi. Taxis play a big part in getting people to where they need to be.”

She did, however, say she doesn’t always feel safe when using taxi services. “I wish they wouldn’t shoot when passengers are around. We don’t know what is going on and whose taxi we’re sitting in. We’re just trying to get to where we need to be. And we want to feel safe doing so.”

Nathi said while she tries to be positive, she fears this meeting won’t result in a real solution. “I hope things change, but I don’t know if they ever will. This isn’t the first time taxi violence has hurt people.”

Besuthu Ndungane, Codeta spokesperson, told the Sentinel that while the association has no comment on the actual shootings of the past few weeks, taxi associations cannot be held accountable for residents’ safety.

“Community safety isn’t in Codeta’s mandate – our mandate is safe and reliable transport. Residents’ safety is the mandate of Alan Winde and of police officials.”

Mr Ndungane further deflected police officials’ finger-pointing at taxi associations, and asked why Codeta and others are being accused of endangering the community but the police isn’t being judged for failing to protect residents.

“What does it say of the police if people can be shot and killed in front of a police station? It
is their job to keep people
safe.”

Mr Ndungane further stated that taxi associations are being punished, and that taxi drivers’ livelihoods are being threatened.

“We aren’t allowed to do business until the end of September. That means we have drivers without routes and who aren’t working. Our business is being affected and that means a lot of people won’t have an income until the suspension is over.”

Despite multiple attempts by the Sentinel News, Cata could not be reached for comment.