Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist


Santaco ‘feels vindicated’ despite court loss, while Cape Town mayor defends taxi impoundments

Santaco's urgent application to interdict impoundments by the City of Cape Town was dismissed.


The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) has suffered defeat in its bid to stop from the impounding of minibus taxis.

The Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Friday dismissed Santaco’s urgent interdict application.

The City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government and Transport Minister Sindi Chikunga were the respondents in the case.

‘Utterly incompetent’

Santaco approached the court after a number of taxis were seized by the City of Cape Town despite the parties reaching a settlement last week.

Taxi operators had staged a week-long strike in protest against the impounding of their vehicles for a range of traffic infringements – including driving without a licence, without valid vehicle licences or permits and a vehicle being deemed inadequate for the road.

In its court papers, Santaco accused the metropolitan municipality of breaching the settlement agreement and argued the impoundments were “an abuse of power and overreach” that led to tense standoff in the first place.

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The organisation asked the high court for an order compelling the city to release all the impounded taxis.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis in his opposing application, however, argued the relief sought by Santaco was “utterly incompetent”.

Hill-Lewis urged the court to dismiss the organisation’s application with costs.

While the court ruled in favour of the city on Friday, no costs order was made.

Taxis will still be impounded

The judgment means taxis will continue to be impounded in terms of the National Land Transport Act.

According to Hill-Lewis, the court granted the city’s request that the terms of the 14-day agreement to be made “an order of court”.

“This will go a long way to ending deliberate misinformation spread about the agreement, and lessening potential for conflict between taxi operators and officers on our roads,” he said in a statement.

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The mayor said the court agreed with the city that there was a “firm legal basis” for impoundments “in the interest of commuter safety”.

“Impoundments will continue under the National Land Transport Act based on the agreed offences while the taxi team concludes its work within the 14-day period. Our work in the task team can now proceed constructively.”

Ahead of next Tuesday’s meeting, Hill-Lewis emphasised that the agreement relied on Santaco’s “permanent cessation of taxi-related violence”.

“Any revival of such violence will nullify the agreement,” he added.

Agreement

According to the agreement, the City of Cape Town will push the public prosecutor to release the impounded taxis only if Santaco provided a list of vehicles that were seized for reasons that did not put passengers’ lives at risk.

“It is important to emphasise that the city must be in agreement with Santaco regarding what offences are regarded as minor,” Hill-Lewis said.

The agreement also requires Santaco to provide 36-hour notice before initiating strikes in the future.

“Additionally, a dispute escalation and resolution clause will be established, allowing matters to be elevated to the premier and mayor before strike action.”

‘Santaco feels vindicated’

Meanwhile, Santaco has since noted the judgment.

“Pursuant to the ruling of the High Court to make the agreement concluded between the stakeholders an order of court, Santaco feels vindicated in its view that minibus taxis can only be impounded on the three grounds agreed upon, which excludes the contravention of any condition imposed on operating licenses, which includes but is not limited to operating off-route, contrary to the position trumpeted out by both the mayor and Mr JP Smith to the public, in the process unjustly vilifying the taxi industry in the eyes of the public,” Santaco Western Cape deputy chairperson Nceba Enge said in a statement on Friday.

“We remain hopeful that the stakeholders can now put this issue behind us all and focus on the task ahead for the taxi task team.”

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