Disgruntled operators plead for protection against gangsters
A group of disgruntled taxi operators shut down a number of northern areas taxi routes yesterday in protest against what they said was a lack of assistance from police when it came to crime and dealing with gangsters demanding protection money.
Hundreds of commuters were left stranded as the fed-up taxi drivers said they wanted police to take their plight seriously.
Large parts of the northern areas were affected but a few taxis still operated despite threats by protesting taxi drivers.
Police were on high alert, patrolling many of the hotspots.
Roads blocked by taxis were reported in certain areas, including Algoa Park and Missionvale, but police quickly cleared them.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said no arrests had been made and the protest had ended by the afternoon.
Algoa Taxi Association spokesman Craig Burgess said the drivers had decided to end the protest and resume normal operations.
“Things will return to normal again [today],” he said.
He said he had initially not known about the protest as news that it would happen had been spread by word of mouth.
He said he had also warned his members not to operate in areas where crime was rampant.
“With the festive season coming up we need the police to assist us in ridding our communities of this problem, because people will have money, and these gangsters will target the taxis.”
A taxi driver, who did not want to give his name as he feared gangsters, said: “It is unfair that we need to pay gangsters for our protection.”
Gangsters often demanded money for safe passage and this should be clamped down on by police.
A taxi owner, who also asked not to be named, said robberies were an almost daily occurrence and operators regularly had to protect themselves and their passengers.
“A day-long strike would cause an estimated financial loss of close to R100 000 on all routes, which is a lot of money if you think about it.
“Just imagine what would happen to us if it continued indefinitely.
“If the authorities are not going to look into incidents of operators and commuters being attacked by gangsters, there could be very serious implications, not only for us as taxi owners, but also for businesses whose majority workforce stays in the northern areas.”
Commuter Jameel van Belling, 49, from Kleinskool, said he had had to leave home at 5am yesterday to be at work in Korsten by 8.30am.
“I walked to work this morning because of the strike.
“It is such an inconvenience, but it’s better than being shot at while in a taxi.
“Sometimes I feel unsafe travelling in them because of what could happen,” he said.