Taxis reign with terror, threats and intimidation at mall

The taxi turf wars have gotten out of hand after a traumatic scene played itself out at the Middelburg Mall on Wednesday, where a driver and his passenger were stripped of their possessions, their vehicle claimed and veiled threats hauled in front of witnesses.

A local business owner, who requested anonymity, told the Middelburg Observer that the Middelburg SAPS refused to help or open a case, telling the victims they were wasting their time after a group of taxi drivers threatened and intimidated them and their employee after taking the company vehicle, cash and cellphones by force.

The company in question offers public transport as a service and is equipped with a valid operating licence to commute paying customers.

One of their drivers had gone to pick up a commuter at the Middelburg Mall on Wednesday at 14:00 when things went horribly wrong.

“The female commuter was in the process of loading her shopping into the vehicle when several taxis blocked the vehicle off and descended upon our driver and client. Five taxi drivers got out and grabbed the keys to our vehicle, as well as demanding the passenger’s fee from our driver,” the business owner explained.

The driver then made an anxious call to his employers, where they could hear him saying “taxi driver, taxi driver” over the phone before they grabbed that off him as well.

“The minute I heard him say ‘taxi driver’, I knew what was transpiring, and monitored the vehicle’s surveillance system, where I saw it was abandoned and empty. The next minute, an unknown male, who we later determined was one of the taxi drivers, climbed into our vehicle and our driver and passenger were forced into the vehicle with him.”

The taxi driver then drove off with their driver and passenger against their will.

Upon seeing that their employee and client were in the process of being abducted, the business owners called the Middelburg Mall’s security, who responded with haste, successfully apprehending the taxi driver and vehicle at the exit near Burger King.

The two business owners then rushed to the scene where they found mall security talking with the taxi drivers. The taxi drivers had called in the assistance of their taxi patrol, who joined in on the discussion.

“They were speaking in vernacular and I could not understand.”

Finally, the other business owner approached the drivers and taxi patrol, where he explained that they are a registered public transport company and have the necessary operating licences in place.

The taxi patrol finally gave back the car keys and told them they could go.

“I pointed out that they were still in possession of our cash and cellphones, which they roughly threw on the ground at my feet. The taxi drivers then made threats, saying, ‘It’s fine, you can go now but we know your vehicles and we know where you are, we will get you on the road’.”

According to the business owner, these threats were made blatantly, in front of mall security.

“After the scene, a man who identified himself as an investigator, called and requested to see my business partner at home. He was uncomfortable with the arrangement and said he would speak to him at the police station.”

They went to the station that same afternoon, but the investigator wasn’t there.

“When we returned the next day, enquiring about the whereabouts of the inspector, the police officers at the station told us we were wasting our time and they wouldn’t open a case despite having video footage, the taxi registration numbers and clear identifying shots of their faces.”

Several complaints have been received about acts of intimidation and violence aimed at members of the public by taxi associations and their security/patrol teams.

• On August 11, a young couple thought they were being hijacked on the N11 (Loskop road) after a taxi overtook them, swerved in front of them, blocked the road and aimed assault rifles at them. After making a U-turn and speeding off, the taxi was seen driving into Doornkop. Members of the SAPS investigated the incident, where it was said that the taxi association was busy with an internal operation that included pulling off “illegal taxis”.

• Several days after that, a family witnessed men dressed in balaclavas and black clothing, armed with assault rifles, peeling out of a vehicle where they pulled commuters out of a taxi and pointing firearms at them in John Magagula Street.

• On Tuesday, a vehicle belonging to Ayanda N Security, believed to be employed by the Long Distance Taxi Association rolled their vehicle on the R555 (Stoffberg road). According to eyewitnesses, the rolled vehicle and a white Ford Ranger double cab were chasing after a motorist who offered a lift to a hitchhiker, when the Hyundai lost control and rolled. The witness stated that the Ford Ranger loaded three injured guards into the bakkie, as well as assault rifles and a bag full of 9mm pistols, and fled the scene before police arrived.

• Ayanda N Security was offered the right to reply but declined to comment on the accident.

• The Provincial Commissioner’s office has been informed that the Middelburg Police Station refused to open a case in response to Wednesday’s incident.

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