Taxi strike chaos hits Cape Town

SEVERAL vehicles were set alight and stoned by striking drivers as a citywide taxi strike began this morning.

Regular taxi commuters in some areas were late for work, while many pupils and teachers were late or absent.

Bloekombos Secondary School principal Makhosini Maci said the school had been “highly affected”.

He said 110 pupils who usually travelled by bus from Fisantekraal were not at school while seven teachers who had to travel from Khayelitsha and Nyanga East were still on the road after 10am.

Nadeem Hendricks, the principal of Trafalgar Secondary, said almost all of his pupils commuted to school and only 40 percent of them were at school this morning.

Some pupils had told him the buses were overcrowded and adults had told them to wait because they needed to get to work.

Hendricks said the pupils were worried about how they would get home this afternoon.

Incidents of strike-related violence were reported in Nyanga, Crossroads, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Bloekombos, Kraaifontein, Fish Hoek and along Klipfontein and Lansdowne roads.

A man was shot and killed in Crossroads, but police were not certain whether this was related to the strike. Indications were it had been a robbery turned violent.

Metrorail said one of its signalling boxes at Kuyasa station was destroyed overnight, delaying trains on the busy Khayelitsha line.

Golden Arrow buses barred from Khayelitsha and Nyanga by protesting taxi drivers were forced to use the side of the N2 highway at Borcherds Quarry as a terminus.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said reports of violence and stone-throwing in Nyanga started coming in at 5.30am. An unconfirmed number of taxis and other vehicles were set alight in Fish Hoek and Bloekombos, and Golden Arrow buses were stoned in Nyanga and on Lansdowne Road.

Law enforcement and the police set up a co-ordinated satellite office, while the city’s transport operation centre in Goodwood was also on high alert.

Western Cape National Taxi Alliance spokesman Mvuyisi Mente condemned the violence and called for calm, adding that the taxi industry was not responsible for the murder in Crossroads. “We’re unhappy about vehicles being impounded, about the attitude of traffic officers and about the bus rapid transit system, but we will not resort to violence,” he said.

He said the alliance had instructed taxi operators to park at home or at any taxi rank. “The strike will continue until we have the assurance from authorities.”

Some taxis in Mitchells Plain and along Voortrekker Road between Kensington, Maitland and the city were operating as usual.

The usually bustling Bellville taxi rank was deserted this morning. Golden Arrow buses and trains at the Bellville interchange operated as normal.

In Bloekombos, where a delivery van was set alight opposite the taxi rank, residents complained they were being unfairly affected by the strike.

Transport MEC Robin Carlisle threatened to close taxi ranks if the strike turned violent, adding law enforcement would be deployed to protect the public from strikers.

The SA National Taxi Council and the ministry had agreed there could be no moratorium on impounding illegally operating vehicles, Carlisle said.

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