Eastern Cape transport department seeks military aid amid taxi protests in Mthatha

27 May 2024 - 08:43
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Roads blocked during protests by taxi drivers in Mthatha.
Roads blocked during protests by taxi drivers in Mthatha.
Image: TrafficSA via X

The Eastern Cape department of transport and community safety is seeking the assistance of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) during protests by taxi operators in Mthatha. 

Unathi Bingose, departmental spokesperson, said protesters have blocked main roads in Mthatha, including the N3 and all exit points, the N2 to the north and south and the R61 west and east.

"They have used trucks to blockade the roads. Law enforcement is on the ground. We are getting reinforcement from the SANDF to try to bring the situation back to normality.  

"Unfortunately, it has affected a lot of things, including schools and airports — just about everything," he said.

The department said people travelling to, from and through the Mthatha area are urged to either delay their travel significantly or avoid the town completely while law enforcement tries to control the situation.

Protesting taxi drivers have allegedly used hijacked trucks to block both sides of the N2 and the R61. This has affected operations at the Mthatha airport, which has been closed.

MEC Xolile Nqatha issued a stern warning against fear-mongers who threatened a shutdown and to stop electioneering in Mthatha. 

He said the state would deal decisively against anyone responsible for voice notes and videos doing the rounds on social media and seeking to intimidate, incite violence and threaten people’s democratic right to participate in Wednesday's elections.

The most recent social media post is a brazen video recording by a man who allegedly calls for a complete shutdown of Mthatha and a stop to election campaigns in and around Mthatha shortly before polling day.

Police recently confiscated pistols and assault rifles after the resurgence of taxi violence in the Mthatha, Tsolo and Maclear areas.

Nqatha assured the public there would be no shutdown of Mthatha, and has directed police to track and bring to justice the man responsible for the video and any other person or people responsible for similar social media posts.

He termed these "selfish, immature and irresponsible" actions that seek to undermine the rule of law in the province and in Mthatha in particular.

"The utterances by the man who recorded the video are an insult to the sacrifices by many of our liberation struggle heroes and heroines.

"He is virtually spitting in the faces of all our anti-apartheid heroes and heroines, many of who sacrificed their lives for the right to vote and the right for freedom of movement that he wants to take away from our people. We can never allow any person to do that on our watch. That will be a betrayal of the freedom that we enjoy and the sacrifices of those who fought so hard for it," he said. 

Nqatha assured the people of the Eastern Cape his department, working closely with the police, is determined to end taxi violence in the province without fear or favour or siding with any of the parties involved.

Last week he expressed concern at a resurgence of violence affecting the taxi industry, particularly in eastern parts of the province. He said three people had died, with gun attacks reported between Maclear and Tsolo and in Mthatha.

His office said the attacks came two months after the MEC "had brought together under one roof all the warring factions in the province for peace talks and the signing of a peace accord".

On Friday, the department said "nearly 59 firearms" had been confiscated by police as part of the drive to curb the resurgence of taxi violence.


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