SANDF deployed to Dunoon in crime crackdown as taxi protest continues

01 October 2019 - 10:24 By Dan Meyer
SANDF soldiers arrived in Dunoon on Tuesday October 1 2019.
SANDF soldiers arrived in Dunoon on Tuesday October 1 2019.
Image: Aron Hyman

SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops deployed on the Cape Flats arrived in Dunoon in Cape Town on Tuesday to carry out "targeted operations" against crime in the area - where disgruntled taxi operators have been leading violent protests for days.

Police said the deployment of the military was directed at crime, not the protests.

Protests in the area, and the nearby Joe Slovo area, have simmered for days with cars being stoned, roads barricaded, bus stations targeted and at least one bus and a truck set on fire.

The protest is the result of a standoff between some taxi bosses and the city council, which refuses to budge on demands for allocated transport routes and the scrapping of fines.

Police confirmed that the SANDF would be moving to Dunoon on Tuesday, but insisted that their presence in the area was to prioritise "generators of crime" and was not specifically directed at the protesters.

Soldiers near a vandalised bus station in Dunoon.
Soldiers near a vandalised bus station in Dunoon.
Image: Aron Hyman

"Integrated forces attached to Operation Lockdown are busy with targeted operations at the Table View and Dunoon taxi ranks," said police spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk. 

Calm returned to the township of Dunoon after a combined force of army and various police units conducted a search and seizure operation on Tuesday morning. A large column of SANDF armoured personnel carriers, ambulances and military police lined up in a MyCiti bus lane next to two burnt-out bus stations.

Protest action, allegedly orchestrated by minibus taxi operators, closed down the N7 highway as well as the M5 through Dunoon for most of last week until Tuesday morning. Passing cars were stoned and trucks set on fire. Metro police officers were also attacked.

Taxi operators claimed they were being victimised by the city after taxis were impounded in operations by metro police over the past two weeks.

Essential services were prevented from entering the township. As the army pulled out a large contingent of police officers stayed behind to stabilise the area.

"They started last night and have just resumed this morning. The forces are focusing on the generators of crime such as drugs and firearms," Van Wyk said. 

"Please note, the deployments are not about the protest but generators of crime in the area."

He said the protests were being policed by POPS [public order police] who were deployed to maintain law and order in the area.

In what appears to the a "guerilla warfare" approach to the protest, groups have engaged in stone throwing and road obstructions in sporadic incidents, before quickly fleeing to avoid arrest. 

"Unlike 'conventional' protests which involve large crowds and protracted stand-offs, the protests were a hit-and-run scenario," according to a public post by Milnerton crime watch on Facebook.

"Troublemakers are using children and youngsters to drag stuff into the roads and then they're going forward to set it ablaze. By the time the fire's taken hold, they've already run away."

Taxi drivers have lashed out at the city, allegedly vandalising a MyCiti bus station and blocking roads in Dunoon, north of the city centre, after city officials impounded several taxis in the past two weeks.

On Monday, the city of Cape Town released a revised traffic bylaw for comment that stipulates that taxis may be impounded and returned only after criminal proceedings have concluded in the case of reckless or negligent driving.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said earlier: "Taxi drivers and owners believe that they should not be fined or arrested for offences and that the city should engage them first in discussions about these offences. This is a preposterous proposal.

"Public transport operators and owners need to realise that the law applies just as much to them as every other motorist and that they have a larger burden of responsibility than anybody else on the road." 

But the ward councillor for the area of Dunoon, Lubabalo Makeleni of the ANC, blamed the city council for the pandemonium, as did Dunoon Taxi Association general secretary Frank Qotyiwe.

"The reason for that chaos in Dunoon is the city of Cape Town and the taxi association. The city is impounding taxis and the taxi owners are against that," Makeleni said. "Taxi owners are behind the strike. Children are also being caught up in this, just like many other opportunists."