Gauteng traffic cops working with SAPS to stop violence against Uber drivers

13 March 2018 - 17:47 By Penwell Dlamini
Image: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS

Gauteng Traffic Police has told the portfolio committee in the province that there is a coordinated response to deal with violence involving metered-taxi‚ Uber and Taxify drivers.

Metro police from Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg and the Gauteng Traffic Police briefed the portfolio committee on transport in the province on what they are doing to deal with the violence that has marred this industry over the past years.

Xolisa Mdingane‚ acting director of public transport inspectorate in the Gauteng department of community safety‚ under which the Gauteng Traffic Police fall‚ explained how problems began to emerge in the sector to the committee.

“Where everything started is once [there was] a move by the MEC [Ismail Vadi]…Because your old meter taxis felt that government is giving preferential treatment to Uber driver or taxis. Most of them [meter taxis] had been waiting for a long time for operating licences and here was this monster that was taking over their livelihood. That is when everything started.

“Then there was an intervention by the premier [of Gauteng‚ David Makhura] on September 17 last year where he called all law enforcement agencies to the Gautrain station in Midrand and we developed a plan from there. From there a targeted police and traffic intervention was announced‚ heightened at different flash points.

“Our deployment was focused mainly on Gautrain stations in Sandton‚ OR Tambo‚ Park Station and Bosman and Hatfield in Pretoria‚” Mdingane said.

Vadi announced that there were systems in place to enable Uber taxi drivers to obtain their operating licences in May 2016. This angered the meter taxi industry which even tried to attack the MEC on the day of the announcement.

Mdingane said the officers impounded 190 taxis belonging to Uber and meter taxis. Of these‚ 120 were from Sandton station and 70 were at OR Tambo International airport.

These taxis did not have operating licences.

Mdingane told TimesLIVE after the committee meeting that most of these drivers apply for the operating licence and get a receipt of application. They then use the receipt to ferry passengers without getting the actual licence.

“One of our successes was when we arrested a group of meter taxi drivers in Hillbrow who had just attacked an Uber driver. This was in October.”

Then the meter taxi drivers decided to blockade the R21. A total of 97 of them were arrested.

“After that there was a lull up until the incident on March 2 2018. The day before‚ there was an attack on meter taxis and I think there was a revenge attack by meter taxi drivers who then attacked a 21-year-old‚ put him in the boot of a car and torched the vehicle‚” said Mdingane.

Mdingane told the committee that all the taxi-related crime cases were handled by the taxi violence unit within SAPS. It was this unit that would be able to give details on arrests.

Siyabonga Langelihle Ngcobo‚ a Taxify driver‚ was killed this month. His charred body was discovered in a boot of a car in Pretoria. Ngcobo’s gruesome murder shocked the nation‚ placing under the spotlight the rivalry between meter taxis‚ Taxify and Uber.

The next day‚ a meeting was called by the provincial police commissioner where a plan was drafted to focus on fighting the battle between meter taxis‚ Uber and Taxify.

Metro police departments told the committee that they worked closely with the SAPS but they did not have intelligence capacity as this resided with the police.

Committee members raised concern that the security agencies in Gauteng were not effective in their intelligence gathering as they were unable to stop the attacks before they happen.

Members also complained that the agencies did not communicate their successes to the public.

“When our communities are in the dark and don’t know what is happening‚ they get into a mode of fear because they don’t know whether the police are winning or losing the battle. I would suggest that they [all agencies] form a team that is going to communicate so that they don’t talk at all fronts. Maybe a team that includes metro police‚ crime intelligence‚ SAPS…one team that speaks for all of them.

“Communities want to see that people are getting arrested and they appear in court. As to what happens in court‚ that is another sphere [of government]….It is important to say that we have arrested so-and-so as this will show that we are winning in that battle‚” said Mafika Mgcina‚ chairperson of the portfolio committee of roads and transport in Gauteng.

Provincial Police Commissioner Major-General Deliwe De Lange was invited to brief the committee and also the metro police in the City of Tshwane but both could not make it.

The committee meeting was held in the Springs civic centre in Ekurhuleni.

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