'This is the only business we can do' - irate Cape Town taxi owner
Jenna Etheridge, News24
Cape Town – "We are honest people; we don’t fight with anybody and we don’t deal in drugs," was the stance of an irate minibus taxi businessman following several impoundments in Cape Town on Tuesday morning.
Customers demanded their services, because they operated day and night in town, he said.
As an owner of four taxis, 43-year-old Jonathan Swartz said his only crime was trying to earn an income. "The taxi business is the only thing we can do."
He joined around 100 fellow drivers and owners who blocked Strand Street with their vehicles.
They protested against 10 taxis being impounded during an early-morning operation in central Cape Town and Green Point.
Safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith said five people were arrested for outstanding warrants worth R72 950. Nine of the impoundments were for operating without valid permits and one for operating in contravention of the permit.
The blockade forced officials to turn away vehicles at Adderley Street.
A line of mostly female commuters, many of them domestic workers waiting for a lift to Ocean View, sat stranded on a nearby embankment.
The crowd chased away a pick-up truck that arrived to remove the vehicles.
Pointing a finger at a traffic official, one protester shouted: "MyCiTi [bus] can’t manage all these people. Let us work or we die for these things!"
Stun grenades were fired around noon to disperse the crowd. Traffic flowed freely.
Six people were arrested on an illegal gatherings charge and expected to appear in court on Friday, Western Cape police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said.
Speaking to News24, Swartz claimed the city had agreed not to remove taxi operators without permits on the MyCiTi route until there was an amicable resolution.
He referred to a taped together grubby letter sent to operators from a Transport Cape Town (TCT) commissioner last year February.
However, TCT mayoral committee member Brett Herron explained the letters were issued to operators for a limited period.
"It was made very clear to those operators this was a short-term intervention and based on their allegation they were in fact legal operators who were unfairly and unlawfully dispossessed of their operating licences," he said.
Operators had not produced the evidence to substantiate their claims five months later.
TCT then advised operators the letter was withdrawn on July 14 this year.
"As the letters are no longer valid, the city’s traffic service must continue to enforce the law," Herron said.