Five killed in suspected Western Cape taxi strike-related incidents

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Five people have been killed in suspected taxi strike-related incidents in Cape Town since last Thursday.

Police Minister, Bheki Cele, says there has been an upsurge of serious crime in the province as police have had to deviate their crime prevention operations to help quell the violence.

This, he says, has left already vulnerable communities without adequate policing services.

Cele says a 40-year-old British national is among five people killed. He says police are also investigating whether last night’s killing of five more people in Mbekweni in Paarl could be related to the taxi strike.

Cele says there has been an alarming escalation in crime in the metro, with 120 people arrested for various offenses. He has appealed to all roleplayers, including the City of Cape Town, to put egos aside in order to save lives and restore peace and normality.

“Western Cape is one of the areas that has been getting green from us in reducing crime, but since this started, there has been a hell of an upsurge. I’ve been looking at figures of the weekend, people here have been dying and the car hijacking, and everything has gone back up, that is beside the taxi industry. So, the sooner they resolve and everybody must come down on their high horse and swallow their pride, stop their arrogance. And this is happening not at the expense of the people who are refusing to resolve the matter.”

City officials have dug in their heels, saying they cannot negotiate with South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) amid violence and threats of violence. Over the past week, several Golden Arrow buses were torched, vehicles stoned, roads blockaded, and an on-duty LEAP officer among those shot and killed.

City of Cape Town mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, explains: “We have taken a principled position that we will not speak with those that are perpetrating violence until it stops. Now we have had, are on about 12 hours now I think of peace and quiet in the city, since about 3 am this morning. We have no incident and that is thanks in large part to the police and law enforcement response. If that continues for the foreseeable future we are happy to go back to the negotiating table. But I think the firm position we have taken is the right position because we have this peace and quiet albeit for only 10 or 12 hours. The taxi industry knows they will get nothing from the government whatsoever so long as this violence continues.”

Taxi Shutdown | City of Cape Town officials say calm largely restored:

Release of impounded taxis

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga earlier called on the City of Cape Town to release taxis impounded under by-laws contested by the industry.

“We call on the city to immediately release without any conditions all the vehicles impounded on the National Road Traffic Act. And leave those that are impounded on the basis of the National Land Transport Act of 2009. We remain committed to moving with speed in finding an amicable solution that must enable the taxi industry to resume operations and call off the strike.”

However, Hill-Lewis says not a single taxi was impounded under the city’s by-laws as claimed by the minister.

Meanwhile, Santaco has welcomed Chikunga’s call for parties to return to negotiations — but has not given an indication of suspending its stay away.

Transport Minister’s media briefing on the ongoing Western Cape taxi industry strike:

Policing functions

Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, says the taxi strike has drawn most of the province’s law enforcement resources away from other policing functions, leading to opportunistic crimes such as looting.

Winde was speaking at an extended meeting of the Western Cape Cabinet, attended by provincial Cabinet members, police and mayors.

He says while there is more calm reported across the province, the impact of the strike on essential services has been significant.

He says the quicker they can get back to the negotiating table with taxi organisations, the better.

“Our learners need to get back to school. 40% away from school yesterday, we awaiting I presume similar numbers today. Same thing with many of our health care facilities not able to operate at full capacity. That is also taking away the services to the citizen and the same thing for social development. Our social workers not able to help those who are most in need across our province. We need to be able to get back to negotiations. We need to get back to the table.” –Additional Reporting Sagree Chetty