Taxis impounded as police enforce route closure over Cape taxi war

Aron Hyman Reporter
Commuters board a bus at Cape Town’s city bus terminal during the ongoing taxi war between Codeta and Cata in the Western Cape.
Commuters board a bus at Cape Town’s city bus terminal during the ongoing taxi war between Codeta and Cata in the Western Cape.
Image: Esa Alexander

There is a link between taxi violence and extortion, and while taxi bosses sat at a table together in meetings mediated by the government, “the criminal few” in their organisations continued the bloodshed of a taxi war.

As of the end of last week, brutal taxi violence had claimed the lives of 83 people since the start of the year.

These were some of the admissions made during the weekly digital press briefing on taxi violence held by the Western Cape provincial government on Tuesday, alongside Western Cape police commissioner Lt-Gen Thembisile Patekile.

Patekile said police in the province had arrested 22 people for murder, and that all the cases were before the courts. He said the investigators from the police’s provincial organised crimes unit had joined forces with the Hawks investigators to form a team investigating taxi-related murders.

“There is a relation between the taxi violence and the extortion,” he said.

He said the team’s investigators were not just interested in the contract killers who were hired by taxi bosses in recent weeks to destroy rival taxi drivers and mow down their commuters in a violent campaign that wrought terror on commuters.

Instead, they would focus on the key players in the criminal syndicates operating in the taxi industry.

“When we collapse those syndicates we will be able to say, 'These are the leaders, these are the ones that we need to take down',” he said.

In the meeting, Western Cape transport and public works MEC Daylin Mitchell said 70% of people in the province used minibus taxis for transport, and the war between Cata and Codeta, the Western Cape’s biggest taxi associations, left many of them stranded when the taxi associations stopped operations to keep their drivers from coming under fire.

Mitchell said this in response to questions about whether the government was wasting its time by continuing to engage the associations when evidence suggested that mediation efforts by government yielded no tangible results.

Two weeks ago Mitchell’s office announced that mediation between the organisations had resulted in a “ceasefire” being officially entered into by the bosses of both associations.

A few days later the ceasefire was broken by more murders.

On Monday the Western Cape government officially banned both associations from using the route between Mbekweni in Paarl and Bellville in Cape Town.

The route — known as B97 — is one of the routes most in dispute, leading to the war between the taxi associations.

Mitchell said the decision to close the route, which is being enforced by the police, traffic officials, and the army, was a necessary measure after mediation failed.

“Today is the second day that the B97 minibus taxi route between Mbekweni and Bellville has been closed. It will remain closed for two months in terms of Section 91 of the National Land Transport Act. This action became necessary after concerted efforts to stop violence between operators on the B97 route affiliated to Cata and Codeta failed,” said Mitchell on Tuesday. “I took this decision in the interest of protecting the commuter, after a surge in taxi-related shootings and murders in and around Cape Town over the past few months,” he said.

“My department is working with other departments and SAPS on an inter-governmental, co-operative approach to deal with the cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of 83 people since the beginning of this calendar year. We draw a line in the sand as far as criminal behaviour is concerned,” said Mitchell.

In enforcing the closure of the route Patekile said that on Tuesday morning between 6am and 8.30am five taxis were impounded for either operating without a permit or in contravention of permit stipulations.

“Five fines ranging from R2,500 to R7,000 were imposed on the drivers. The total amount for the fines issued is R30,500,” he said.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said a formal arbitration process between the associations has been initiated with proceedings which restarted at 10am Tuesday to resolve the dispute over routes.

“It was also announced that the notice for formal proceedings has been sent to the relevant associations after the initiation of a process to sanction or suspend them. This process was initiated on July 7 2021 and the hearings are expected to begin on August 4 2021,” said Winde.

“In addition, the Western Cape Government’s approach to the high court for a declarator on the Santaco constitution regarding regions and mother bodies is set to be made by the end of this month,” he said.

Mitchell said additional transport arrangements were being made for commuters affected by the closure of taxi routes.

This included additional Golden Arrow bus services being made available between Paarl and Bellville, an increase in Metrorail trains on the Northern Line (from 14 to 45 units, including the Malmesbury and Worcester services), Metrorail’s shuttle service offering 15 trips from Wellington to Kraaifontein, and the service between Kraaifontein and Cape Town via Monte Vista operating 26 trips.

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