In an ironic turn of events, the announcement that a programme which incentivises good behaviour by taxi drivers, was met with violent protests during which a number of buses were torched.
Yesterday, Wednesday November 23, operations resumed after the taxi industry embarked on a two-day stay-away strike following the announcement by the provincial government that it would cease the pilot of the Blue Dot programme at the end of this month. The programme rewards drivers for good driving habits.
This violent strike came after the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), an umbrella body of the taxi association industry across the country, indicated that it was unhappy about the decision.
On Monday and Tuesday hundreds of taxi commuters in the province were forced to seek alternative modes of transport and on Monday buses were seen being escorted by law enforcement agencies in and around Khayelitsha. While the situation was much calmer on Tuesday, buses were still operating with escorts.
Santaco provincial chairperson, Mandla Hermanus distanced taxi operators from the burning of buses, saying they had instructed operators that the strike should be a peaceful stay away so that it does not shift the focus on to the criminal activities.
He believes that when the programme was initiated by the government they had no intention of extending it because the didn’t really believe it would succeed.
“This was their concept and idea and it had nothing to do with the national government yet now they claim that they do not have funding and are shifting the blame to national government.
“This was their idea and they never received any funding from the national government to pilot this project,” he said, adding that they would continue to campaign against the end of the programme.
Responding to violence relating to the strike, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said its law enforcement and Metro Police departments had been working with the police.
“Cowardly attacks were launched on some public transport vehicles in Khayelitsha, when a Golden Arrow bus and a MyCiti bus were burnt,” Mr Smith said.
“It has become the norm for certain role players within the public transport sector to attempt to destroy the competition and burn out competing public transport vehicles.
“A Golden Arrow bus was hijacked, but our undercover law enforcement officers were able to intercept the bus and arrest the hijacker,” he said.
Mr Smith said the City of Cape Town’s Leap officers had been deployed on Golden Arrow and MyCiTi buses to ensure the drivers’ and commuters’ safety.
“In line with the precedent set in Nyanga, where the City and SAPS confirmed that they would not tolerate taxi violence and the destruction of public infrastructure and other public transport vehicles, the City will intensify its operations in Khayelitsha over the next days, which may well lead to the impounding of a significant number of taxis,” Mr Smith added.
Public Works and Transport MEC, Daylin Mitchell, said the violence associated with the strike was unacceptable.