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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

‘There is no hope for us’: Santaco taxi stayaway brings Cape Town to standstill

Santaco has announced a stay-away until 9 August, calling on the minister of transport to intervene.

Cape Town was brought to a standstill on Thursday after Santaco announced a taxi stayaway, leaving commuters stranded.

Western Cape taxi drivers took to the streets of the Mother City on Thursday protesting against impoundments and alleged assaults by law enforcement officials.

According to Santaco, 6 000 taxis have been impounded since the beginning of the year.

The leadership of Santaco and civil society held a community meeting on Thursday afternoon, where they announced plans to resolve the stand-off with the City of Cape Town.

“As we’re sitting here, they [government officials] are meeting in Cape Town. They are not talking about what they can do so that we don’t go on strike, but how they are going to punish us if we strike.

“They’re preparing for the worst, which means there is no hope for us,” said Western Cape Santaco chairperson Mandla Hermanus during the meeting.

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He accused traffic officers of impounding taxis even in cases where the offence was committed by a driver, and also assaulting taxi drivers.

To avoid confrontation with law enforcement, Santaco announced a stayaway until 9 August.

“All regions of Santaco in the Western Cape have resolved to recall all taxis from operating as of this moment,” it said.

“During this stay-way, there will be no march or any form of protests that will take place. All operations will stop and we have urged our operators to refrain from any acts of violence and threatening behaviours.

“Normal taxi operations will resume on 10 August, after which we will make further announcements on the way forward. “

Taxi strike: Vehicles set alight

Police in the Western Cape said they had responded to the taxi strike “with high-density operational deployments” in the city centre and other affected areas to maintain law and order.

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“Preliminary reports suggest the N2 in both directions are blocked by taxis, severely affecting traffic in both directions. Several incidents of public violence have been recorded where vehicles were stoned and set alight in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Langa and N2,” said the SA Police Service.

An ambulance which was carrying a patient was also reportedly set alight.

Blame game

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis accused ministers of politicising the strike.

“The City of Cape Town and Western Cape government have been working to avoid a strike and any disruption for communities.

City law enforcement, traffic services, alongside the SAPS, are already working and will continue to work to uphold the rule of law over the coming days as we always do,” said Hill-Lewis.

“I condemn any acts of violence and destruction of public property as well as inappropriate political involvement from national ministers, which only make the situation harder to resolve.”

‘Peaceful and constructive dialogue’

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga called on all parties involved to prioritise “peaceful and constructive” dialogue without resorting to violence.

“Resorting to violence and acts of aggression not only undermines the rule of law, but also jeopardises the safety and well-being of passengers, law enforcement officials, and innocent bystanders,” said Chikunga in a statement on Thursday.

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“The Minister strongly discourages and condemns any form of violence from all parties involved in dealing with this impasse.”

In response, Santaco called on the minister to join the organisation on the ground and play a central role in resolving the impasse.

“Statements of condemnation can only do so much. Our commuters don’t deserve these inconveniences,” said Santaco.

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