Taxi ‘thugs’ holding Western Cape economy at ransom, says premier
‘Our bus drivers are being terrorised, our citizens are being terrorised ... that is why we need to have the full force of the law’
Western Cape premier Alan Winde has read the riot act to the province’s taxi bosses as a deadly impasse continues.
Winde and provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Thembisile Patekile spoke to the media about the ongoing taxi war on Tuesday. More than 70 people have died in the violence since beginning of the year.
“We are dealing with a very serious matter that is raising its head in our province and that is taxi violence. These are warlords and thugs in the taxi industry who are holding many of our citizens to ransom,” he said.
“The murders that we have seen in the last while, the innocent citizens and bystanders who are affected by this thuggish behaviour, is absolutely unacceptable. It needs to be dealt with in the harshest terms possible, and I want to be very clear on that. These thugs need to be arrested. These thugs need to be taken off our streets.”
He said the province was focused on ensuring law and order last week, and was on high alert to prevent looting. He said law enforcement agencies in the province had also come together to fight the growing taxi violence.
“I can assure there has been an absolute clear shift in the focus of maximum deployment into hotspot areas facing the brunt of this violence that is spilling over into civil society, holding our economy to ransom by these thugs.”
Winde said the army and other agencies, including municipal and provincial traffic officers, had been deployed to the “southeast region of Cape Town, which is absolutely critical”.
“We generally have 120,000 people at this time who are being held at ransom and cannot move on our bus systems.
“We also have many, many people who cannot move on our train systems. I have had a meeting with Richard Walker of Metrorail. They limited numbers of train sets running and he continues to engage with me. We need to keep more train sets up and running, specifically from areas hit by this taxi problem.
We are not going to be held to ransom by taxis. They are gangsters, like any other gangster.Lt-Gen Thembisile Patekile
“At the same time we are making sure our buses are safer. We know Golden Arrow Bus Service had to reduce some capacity today and last night. I want to thank them and police for ensuring citizens got home safely last night.
“We had convoys and police and law enforcement support. It is critical with this deployment that these thugs are arrested and the full force of the law must be applied. We cannot have our citizens and our economy held to ransom.
“Our bus drivers are being terrorised, our citizens are being terrorised. That cannot happen and that is why we need to have the full force of the law.”
MEC for community safety Albert Fritz said: “This province is ravaged by a group of terrorists. It’s nothing else. It’s a group of terrorists who are terrorising our people and we as a government have a responsibility to make sure people are safe.”
Patekile said the province has a “multidisciplinary approach” to the taxi violence.
“We have shifted more resources from the malls to the strategic deployments as guided by intelligence” he said.
“I am happy to say we have not had a shooting incident reported to us. Buses are being escorted by visible policing and unmarked vehicles between routes. That is to ensure that, if there is an incident, we effect an immediate arrest and respond to any complaint. We are checking for firearms. Whether you have a licence or not, we take those firearms, especially from taxi people.”
The firearms would be sent for ballistics testing.
“From Monday up to today, we have arrested 12 people from the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association [Cata] and Codeta (Congress of Democratic Taxi Association) for possession of unlicensed firearms and we recovered 14 firearms in the Cape Town metro. We have not been able to link them to crime scenes and murders but we are sending all the firearms for ballistic tests,” said Patekile.
He urged the public to report any form of intimidation.
“Our intention is to quickly effect arrests of those who have intimated or extorted you. We want to arrest anyone who is breaking the law. We want to ensure everyone responsible for these unnecessary killings and attacks is brought to book. The army is here. In other places we will be doing high-density operations in hotspots, as directed by intelligence.
“What is needed is to stabilise the situation so people can continue with their lives. We are not going to be held to ransom by taxis. They are gangsters, like any other gangster.”