Authorities contain Cape Town taxi violence

Thursday, February 12, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town's law enforcement agencies are continuing to provide support to the South African Police in containing the violence led by some members of the taxi industry in Cape Town.

Many people were wounded, including vehicles stoned and thousands of commuters left stranded, at the start of a three-day taxi strike earlier this week. Operators are protesting against governments proposed Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT).

The city is working with all relevant agencies through a joint operations centre to respond where necessary, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The city's law enforcement agencies, Metro Police, Law Enforcement and Traffic Services, are also providing additional support at the city`s facilities in order to protect both staff and members of the public.

Buses have been prevented from entering many informal settlements and commuters have had to walk long distances to access transport on the areas' outskirts. The city said the situation was difficult to control as attacks were spreading from Atlantis to Hout Bay.

The police have arrested some of the protesters on charges of public violence.

As a precautionary measure the city closed its clinics in Du Noon and Wallacedene as staff were unable to access them. The city is currently reassessing the situation.

In Port Elizabeth, taxi alliances have also embarked on a strike against the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit system. They are expected to meet with authorities on Thursday.

The action has left thousands of commuters stranded; seen vehicles stoned and torched and buildings petrol bombed, including two clinics.

However, the municipality has said the construction of the BRT system would go ahead as planned, due to government's commitment to FIFA to upgrade road infrastructure ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The municipality said it was working closely with the SAPS to ensure that workers at construction sites as well as commuters were not subjected to intimidation from strikers.

In Johannesburg, about a thousand taxi owners protested against a new bus transport system in Jabulani, Soweto on Wednesday. Protesters gathered at the Jabulani amphitheatre to protest against system. No incidents had been reported.

The BRT system was designed to reduce the use of private cars and relieve traffic gridlocks.

It is seen the main catalyst by which to achieve a 70:30 ratio of public transport to private transport use ahead of the set target of 2010, when South Africa will host the World Cup.

The introduction of the system will also present the opportunity to recapitalise the aging taxi fleet to new large buses and an opportunity to share in a bus company.

However, taxi operators have raised concern that the project might result in job losses. Taxi organisations believe that a road dedicated to busses will put them out of business.

Meanwhile Metrorail has made a commitment that all trains will run to schedule.

"Our staff and service providers are on full alert and we have additional resources at our disposal to ensure that Metrorail customers receive the full service they expect from us," said Metrorail.

Commuters and pedestrians are urged to be both vigilant and cautious when travelling to and from home as the strike is expected to continue until Friday.