Winde counting the cost of Cape Town’s taxi strike as police deal with public violence

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Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has said the provincial government remains gravely concerned at the devastating impact caused by the strike called by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the province.

This comes after six Golden Arrow buses were torched due to arson attacks since the taxi strike began on 3 August, prompted by the seizure and impounding of taxis under strict new traffic bylaws.

This has forced the company to terminate its bus services in Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Philippi East, Langa, and Mfuleni, while many roads remain closed.

Golden Arrow has since secured a court order on Sunday against Santaco to stop intimidating, harassing, threatening, or interfering with Golden Arrow, its employees, and passengers.

“I am appalled at the scale of violence that has not only dealt a severe blow to our economy and critical services but has also delegitimised and damaged Western Cape’s Santaco cause.

“This violence and damage to property has continued this morning. I will be holding a special Cabinet meeting this morning with key leadership from the City of Cape Town to assess what further steps need to be taken and the impact on services,” he said on Monday.

He added, “All sides, more especially residents and commuters, are being harmed by this stay away. We must find common ground now.”

Western Cape MEC for Mobility, Ricardo Mackenzie, said the province is concerned that the strike continues even after urgent engagements throughout the weekend.

“The withdrawal of minibus taxi services since Thursday has had a devastating impact. As the provincial government we are working extremely hard to resolve ongoing issues in the industry and establish new terms of engagement that will ensure the safety of commuters and road users.”

Because of the strike, the province said 287 420 learners have not been able to attend school across the province since the sudden stay-away was called.

In addition, more than 9 000 teachers and staff were also prevented from going to work.

Meanwhile, the past Saturday’s matric extra classes had to be cancelled, impacting 14 000 learners.

According to the Western Cape, many healthcare facilities have been forced to operate at reduced capacity.

These include Tygerberg, Red Cross, and Groote Schuur hospitals and the community health centres and clinics.

While Tygerberg and Salt River forensic pathology services are operational, the province said the response to scenes would be delayed in red zones, as this will also only occur under the protection of law enforcement escorts.

In addition, many Western Cape Department of Social Development staff will have to work from home, due to the volatility of the situation.

MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen, has condemned the burning and damage to all property, particularly safety-related resources.

“Contingency plans have been adopted to ensure that the burning of the law enforcement vehicles in Delft will have no operational impact on the deployment of Law Enforcement Advancement (LEAP) officers in the area.”

LEAP, according to the provincial government, is fully operational and part of interventions where required across Cape Town in particular.

Red-zoned areas remain volatile. All law enforcement agencies are deployed across these communities and at strategic points.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has said integrated police deployments are currently dealing with incidents of public violence which erupted on Monday in the Nyanga area as the taxi strike is yet to come to an end.

Roads in and around Nyanga and the Cape Town International Airport were affected and traffic was severely backed up on the N2.

Incidents of busses torched in Borcherds Quarry Road are under investigation, and as yet, no injuries have been reported to SAPS.

“Our members will remain on high alert and deployed in numbers to ensure the safety of the public and to maintain law and order,” police said in a statement.