The City of Cape Town’s law enforcement agencies set out to tackle “pirate” taxi operators in Vrygrond, Westlake, Heathfield, Retreat, Steenberg, Muizenberg and Wynberg last week after tensions again flared up between two taxi associations.
On Wednesday June 14 and Thursday June 15, taxi drivers from the Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) blocked the corner of Prince George Drive and Military Road, demanding an intervention from government officials in the ongoing dispute with Vrygrond Taxi Association (VTA) about taxi permit rights and routes.
VTA has been operating in Retreat and Steenberg and the RTA has accused VTA of illegally infiltrating its route to Vrygrond.
They have since asked for VTA to be disbanded on the grounds that it had been operating in contravention of its licence in Retreat and Steenberg.
In 2014 eight people were killed in the taxi war and in 2015 father and son, Moegamat Allie and David Staggie were killed during the taxi dispute when they picked up passengers in Seawinds (“Taxi chaos in Vrygrond”, Southern Mail, Wednesday October 21, 2015).
There have since been several flare-ups and tensions have been high with RTA not willing to enter Vrygrond in fear of their and their passenger’s safety.
For the past four years, RTA has held peaceful marches, protests and blockaded Prince George Drive on three occasions in a quest to get the attention of government officials to intervene and get “pirates” off their route.
During the week-long blitz, the City’s Law Enforcement, Traffic Services, Metro Police and police impounded 74 vehicles when drivers could not produce operating licences or if they were found to be operating in contravention of their operating licence.
JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety and security ; and social services, said the situation will be monitored.
“Recently, tensions flared again in the Retreat and Vrygrond area between legal and illegal operators. Our staff saturated the area in response and, based on the statistics, the operation was a success. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation to ensure that everyone stays in their lane and to help prevent a repeat of the violence we’ve seen in the area in the past,” he said.
VTA chairperson Makhosandile Tumane expressed his concerns about the impounded vehicles and denied that VTA was invading routes.
Mr Tumane said the association has asked the courts to intervene and stop disciplinary action against VTA.
“We feel like VTA is being attacked and we are not feeling good about the situation. We drive to and from Vrygrond to Blue Route and to and from Vrygrond to Wynberg. We do not think the government is treating us fairly because they want to deregister the association but we don’t feel that there are any grounds to deregister us,” said Mr Tumane.
“The government must give more permits to VTA because we are serving the interest of the community – this is not taken into consideration and no effort is being made to help VTA. We ask RTA to come onboard and work with to resolve the issue,” he said.
Siphesihle Dube, spokesperson for Donald Grant, MEC of Transport and Public Works, said the Provincial Transport Registrar instituted disciplinary action against VTA for contravening the code of conduct for taxi associations by taking on unregistered and unlicensed members, flooding routes with illegal operators and preventing legal operators from the RTA from entering certain areas.
“VTA has used every opportunity to delay, frustrate and hinder the Registrar’s process, with their latest attempt, in last week, being a request for a High Court order to stop the process. This attempt was unsuccessful, with the High Court dismissing VTA’s case and the department securing a cost order against the association. Throughout the process, departmental officials were in contact with both parties, including RTA executive members to keep them informed and to appeal for cool heads and respect for the law,” said Mr Dube.
The department condemned the protest because it was illegal: “Although RTA members may feel frustrated by the legal delays in the process, they have been warned in the past not to take the law into their own hands. The department wishes to remind RTA members and its executive of the action taken by the Provincial Regulatory Entity and the Registrar against Uncedo Taxi Association in George, where individual operators who participated in illegal protest actions, including the blockade of roads, had their operating licences either cancelled or suspended,” he said.
Jay Jay Maans, chairperson of RTA, said the protest action was done out of frustration.
“Since 2009 we have been struggling with the same problem and there has been no resolution. RTA has 14 routes and VTA has infiltrated every single one of them without intervention from government. They have intimidated us and harmed drivers and taxi sliding door operators as well as damaged our vehicles. Enough is enough,” said Mr Maans.
He welcomed the traffic operations and said their vehicles are also being pulled off. the road.
“VTA can drive anywhere but we are asking that they not illegally drive on our routes. There have been previous attempts discipline the VTA but nothing came of it. We need government to help us,” said Mr Maans.