City of Cape Town granted urgent interdict against taxi council
“Stop this madness as soon as possible,” says judge
The Western Cape High Court on Monday night granted another interdict against the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) and its affiliates as a violent taxi strike continues in Cape Town.
The order by Judge Patrick Gamble prohibits any person or vehicle from unreasonably blocking Cape Town’s roads with the intention of harming or delaying passengers using other modes of transport. Members of the taxi industry are also prohibited from coming within 100 metres of a transport depot.
“This is a matter that cries out for urgent intervention,” said Judge Gamble. “There are poor people out there who are deprived of an income … I can only ask the parties to make the most earnest endeavor to find one another and stop this madness as soon as possible.”
Judge Gamble’s order followed a six-hour-long hearing on Monday evening during which the City of Cape Town and Golden Arrow Bus Services made submissions against SANTACO and 166 taxi associations affiliated with it.
Advocate Anton Katz, acting for the City, said that negotiations between City officials and SANTACO had broken down because some of the representatives had arrived with AK47s and assault rifles. Judge Gamble said there was no evidence to this effect before him.
In a statement on Monday, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the City would not negotiate with “a (literal) gun to our heads”.
“There can be no further discussions with local SANTACO leadership until their violence stops … the rule of law is not up for negotiation.”
Golden Arrow Bus Services had secured an urgent interim interdict against the respondents on Sunday, but returned to court on Monday arguing that SANTACO is in contempt of court.
This after more of the company’s buses were attacked on Monday - in spite of SANTACO agreeing to the interim interdict and saying it would take steps to put a stop to the unlawful behaviour, issue a statement condemning the violence and lawlessness, and call on its members to stop such behaviour.
Lawyers for Golden Arrow’s urgent application said SANTACO must provide proof they had complied with Sunday’s order, in particular that it had put out the statement and had taken reasonable steps to stop the unlawful actions of its members.
The company also sought that SANTACO reports, under oath, the identities of members or individual taxi operators who were arrested or involved in respect of the “unlawful” blockade of the N2 on Monday morning, to the registrar of the court.
They wanted the court to issue another order, giving SANTACO until 23 August to give reasons why they should not be held in contempt of court and be imprisoned for 30 days.
Judge Gamble is expected to make a ruling on Golden Arrow Bus Services’ application on Tuesday.
Attacks on Golden Arrow buses
In Sunday’s urgent application, Golden Arrow general manager Derick Meyer said when the taxi strike began on 3 August, more than 10% of its fleet, or 116 buses, had been attacked in 48 hours.
He said taxi owners had created a volatile and dangerous situation. In terms of SANTACO’s own Constitution, this was not forbidden.
“The recent widely reported animosity between the City and the taxi operators arose because of the introduction of the City’s traffic bylaws, which allow for the impounding of vehicles for certain transgressions,” he said in his affidavit.
Last week, traffic officers impounded 15 minibus taxis leading to a clash between operators and traffic officers. “It appears as though the subsequent strike is solely aimed at placing pressure on the Western Cape Government to cease” impounding taxis, said Meyer.
On 3 August, within two hours of the majority of taxi associations voting to strike immediately, the first Golden Arrow bus was set alight, with passengers still on board.
During a taxi blockade off the N2, “a number of armed persons entered a Golden Arrow bus and forced passengers off”.
By midday on 4 August, 72 buses had been damaged, six of them gutted.
An employee had been shot and passengers had been attacked and injured, Meyer said.
He said several areas were now no-go zones and the company could not even use its own shuttle bus to fetch and carry staff.
In terms of the interim interdict, which was agreed to by the respondents, they were restrained from intimidating or threatening bus operations, its employees and passengers, and from damaging any buses.
But early on Monday, according to Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, two more buses had been set alight at a taxi blockade in Borcherds Quarry Road and, later that morning, a bus was set alight in Govan Mbeki Road and another in Sheffield Road.
This prompted the bus company to return to court. In a further affidavit on Monday, Meyer said SANTACO had not published the statement, as required by the court order on Sunday.
“It has not taken steps to control the conduct of its affiliates, their operators or individual taxi drivers …. the violence has continued unabated and has indeed escalated … a further 25 of Golden Arrow’s buses have been damaged, three of which have been totally gutted.
“Tragically, an ‘amaphela’ or independent taxi driver, not associated with the respondents, was reportedly killed this morning,” Meyer said.
He said on Sunday afternoon, a company driver was attacked with a hammer by a number of unidentified assailants.
In the early hours of Monday morning, about 20 to 40 minibus taxi drivers had blocked the N2 - in breach of Sunday’s court order.
SANTACO claimed they had sent a statement informing its members of the court order on Sunday, shortly after the order was granted.
Advocate Ismail Jamie, for Golden Arrow, insisted that SANTACO had not complied with the order, evidenced by the “madness that ensued”. But Judge Gamble said there was no positive evidence of this.
Jamie then referred to pictures of blockages created by the taxis on Monday morning, as proof of contempt. He conceded that the court could not attribute that to a “specific breach” of the order by the cited taxi associations, but argued that because the strike was called by SANTACO “as a matter of logic they bear responsibility”.
Advocate Morne Basson, for SANTACO, said that SANTACO was a taxi owners’ association. Taxi drivers were not necessarily the owners and thus were not SANTACO’s responsibility. Basson questioned how SANTACO could be expected, as an administrative organisation, to know exactly who was involved with acts of criminality.
He said a statement sent out by SANTACO on Monday, calling for calm, amounted to “sufficient and reasonable steps” to comply with Sunday’s court order and that any contempt application had to be brought against individual people and not an organisation.
Basson said those who were engaged in violence were “rogue”, that it was up to the police to investigate, and that the judge should not take cognisance of “fake news”.
In response to a question by the judge, as to how he should deal with the acts of violence on Monday, Basson said: “To be honest I don’t know how you should deal with that. We have informed our members not to engage in any such activity. We sent the circular around yesterday of the statement attached to the court order… people have been arrested … the wheels of justice have started to turn.”
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