Criminals hijacked our protest in Pretoria, says taxi industry
The taxi industry has distanced itself from the violence, destruction of property and looting of shops that resulted in the shut down of the Pretoria CBD on Wednesday.
The violence took place during a protest action sparked by the death of taxi driver Jabu Baloi who was shot during a clean-up operation spearheaded by taximen against drug peddlers in the city centre on Tuesday.
The protest action on Wednesday resulted in a large contigent of law enforcement agents firing rubber bullets and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse the unruly crowd.
The SA National Taxi Council in the capital city said their members were not part of the incidents of looting that took place in the Pretoria central business district, adding that there was no aggression on their part.
"We had planned for a demonstration to highlight some of our issues with the shooting of one of us, and we believe some criminal elements took advantage and exploited our plan to advance their criminal intent," said Santaco's Mack Makata in media statement.
His comments came after taxi bosses met with Gauteng MEC of public transport Jacob Mamabolo and provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela in an attempt to put an end to the protest.
Mawela said the police would look into the allegations raised by the taxi operators and assured promised to give feedback in a short space of time.
"The taxi industry plays an integral part in the well-being of our communities so when they cry out for police attention, it is important that we respond positively and swiftly, in the best interests of the community," said Mawela.
Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa lashed out at the violence and looting of shops in the city centre.
"I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in the Pretoria CBD this morning," said Mokgalapa in a media statement issued on Wednesday.
"There is no grievance that should result in death, irrespective of the circumstances between the individuals involved. I therefore take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to Mr Baloi's family and those closest to him during this time of bereavement.
"This confrontation has led to looting of shops and destruction of city and business infrastructure."
He said the protest also left commuters in limbo after the services of the Tshwane Bus Services including Gautrain buses were suspended.
"I appeal for calm and urge Tshwane residents, the taxi industry, informal traders and all other stakeholders to exercise restraint. These retaliation crimes are intolerable," he said, adding he had full confidence that the law enforcement agents would bring perpetrators to book.