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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Cape Town taxi strike: Transport minister urges ‘arrogant’ officials to release impounded taxis

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga condemned the impoundment of taxis which sparked the violent taxi strike still raging on in Cape Town.

As the taxi strike in Cape Town entered its sixth day on Tuesday, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga called for the immediate release – without any conditions – of minibus taxis impounded under the city’s amended traffic bylaws.

Chikunga addressed the media in Midrand on the government’s interventions in the taxi strike which was called by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) last Thursday.

No end in sight: Taxi strike chaos continues

The strike – which has been blamed for at least two deaths – has been marred by incidents of public violence, attacks on buses and private vehicles, as well as sporadic looting.

On Tuesday morning, Govan Mbeki Road resembled a battle zone with burnt-out vehicles and tyres blockading the busy route, while violence also erupted in Masiphumelele, leading to the arrest of six people.

ALSO READ: Four more Golden Arrow buses torched, schools affected as Cape Town taxi strike continues

taxi strike mfuleni police station updates cape town
A depot in Delft was petrol-bombed on Saturday night, damaging or destroying seven vehicles during the ongoing taxi strike in Cape Town. Photo: Twitter/@Est19661

Minister claims bylaws out of sync with national legislation

According to the transport minister, the city’s bylaws are “out of sync” with the legislation of the National Land Transport Act which prescribes when taxis can be impounded. 

“We have national laws in place that govern the infringements and penalties dealt with in the contested conditions of operating licences. The national laws are in place to ensure that fair rules are applicable to all citizens, irrespective of the city or province they reside in.

“It can never be that a city will define itself outside the parameters of national laws and implement penalties that are out of sync with these laws.”

“To this end, we call on the city to return to the negotiating table to address the areas of disagreement and demonstrate a genuine effort to find a lasting resolution to the current challenges.”

ALSO READ: Cape Town cop gunned down while on patrol during taxi strike

Chikunga slams JP Smith

Chikunga went as far as claiming that the City of Cape Town officials that she has dealt with were “arrogant” and expressed her disagreement with the labelling of taxi operators as “thugs”.

She also accused City of Cape Town safety MMC JP Smith of refusing to participate in ongoing talks to end the strike despite the cooperation of the provincial government.

“Even if they agree, they still have to call JP Smith who then rubbishes everything”.

Talks between the City of Cape Town, Western Cape government and Santaco collapsed on Sunday after it was kick-started by the minister on Friday evening.

‘She should be defending her own legislation’ – Cape Town mayor

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis fired back at the minister’s remarks in an interview with 702’s Mandy Wiener on Tuesday afternoon:

“Well, if by arrogant she means we are not prepared to negotiate with people who are holding a gun to the city’s head, and going out there and perpetrating acts of violence and intimidation and mayhem on the city’s streets – then so be it.”

He also said they’re acting on national legislation that the minister should be defending.

“The provisions under which we are actually enforcing against the taxis are provisions of the NLTA [National Land Transport Act]. It is a national piece of legislation.

“She should be defending her own legislation. This is not some whimsical or malicious new piece of leg cooked up by a Democratic Alliance government. It is a national piece of legislation which we are actually implementing and enforcing. That might not be the case nationally, but it is the case here.”

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

Talks collapse: ‘A (literal) gun to our heads’?

Commenting on the weekend’s failed negotiations on Monday morning, Hill-Lewis said the city would not negotiate with “a (literal) gun to our heads”.

“There can be no further discussions with local Santaco leadership until their violence stops … the rule of law is not up for negotiation.”

Cape Town taxi strike: 72 people arrested for public violence
Commuters at Borchards Quarry, Nyanga on Thursday, 3 August 2023. Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

Allegations of weapons at taxi strike talks

On Monday evening, the Western Cape High Court granted the City of Cape an urgent interdict against the taxi body and its affiliates.

GroundUp reported that during the six-hour-long court proceedings, Advocate Anton Katz, acting for the city, said the negotiations between city officials and Santaco had broken down because some of the representatives had arrived with AK47s and assault rifles.

Judge Patrick Gamble, however, said there was no evidence to this effect before him.

When asked about this during the media briefing, the transport minister said that she herself was only aware of body-searches carried out on representatives.

ALSO READ: We will not negotiate with ‘taxi thugs’ holding ‘gun to our heads’ – Cape Town mayor

Minister set to return to Cape Town to revive taxi strike talks

Chikunga, who has, ironically, wrapped up the three-day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Transport Infrastructure Visit to South Africa this morning, said that she would be flying to Cape Town later on Tuesday to try and revive the talks.

Commenting on the mayhem and destruction which have left thousands of commuters stranded, Chikunga said she had asked the taxi industry to denounce any form of violence or intimidation by its members.

“We condemn the violence that has characterised this strike in the strongest possible terms.”

NOW READ: Taxi strike updates and THAT video of Cape Town cops assaulting driver [WATCH]