Mayor’s statement comes after protesting taxi bosses, motorists clash over blocked roads
THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality wants R650-million from the national government to get its failed bus system off the ground. Mayor Danny Jordaan made the announcement at a media conference in Port Elizabeth yesterday, after a dramatic protest which saw taxi drivers blocking roads in the city centre for several hours and clashing with motorists.
A day after promising to stage a peaceful protest, sparks flew when motorists – some of them business owners in the area – tried to force their way through the blocked Produce and Baakens streets intersection.
Others tried to get into taxis to move them off the road.
One woman, who declined to give her name, said she had been dragged from a taxi and slapped by the driver.
This fuelled the anger of a colleague, who almost came to blows with some of the taxi drivers. They were seen shoving each other.
The woman was also heard to say in Afrikaans she would not listen to “a baboon”. A traffic officer, who was filming the altercation on his cellphone, stepped in to stop the fight.
Some of the drivers shouted “we’re fighting for our rights” and “go and tell Danny Jordaan to listen to us and then we will move”.
One driver yelled “we need to slap that woman”. Others said “the time of apartheid is over”.
Workers complained that it was not necessary to block Produce Street when the taxi drivers’ gripe was with the political leadership at City Hall.
The drivers are demanding that the bus system begin to operate and the reinstatement of a monthly subsidy previously paid to them by the municipality. The money was stopped earlier this year on the instruction of the national government as the bus system was not yet in operation.
When police intervened at yesterday’s protest, a Party Design employee said: “We want to get to our businesses.
“We understand the gripe is with whatever this bus system is, but then block off on the mayor’s f*****g road and leave Produce Street out of it.
“I’ve been dragged, I’ve been scratched . . . These are private businesses . . .
“Move these vehicles, otherwise I’m going to get a tow truck.
“I’ll fetch my truck and move them [taxis] because we’re losing money,” he said.
But the taxi drivers shouted, “this is not your farm here” and “we all run [a] business”.
The police officer, who introduced himself only as Warrant Officer Gallant, of the public order police, said the situation was not out of control.
“The police, the taxi associations and the mayor are in a meeting. The mayor [knows] what is happening out here,” he said.
Meanwhile, taxi bosses were meeting with Jordaan and his team at the City Hall.
After the meeting, Jordaan provided lunch for the taxi bosses.
Asked at the press conference why he had provided food for protesters who had blocked roads, Jordaan said: “There is nothing wrong with that.
“I find it strange you would find something wrong with that.” Laphum’ilanga taxi association boss Gregory Rockman said: “Typical Herald.”
Jordaan said: “It is a petty thing. You cannot raise that, especially on the African continent.”
Jordaan’s chief of staff, Mlungisi Ncame, said the food had been prepared for another event which was meant to take place at the City Hall earlier in the day.
Jordaan said his deputy, Bicks Ndoni, would chair a task team comprising Laphum’ilanga Transport
“Typical Services and city officials, who would meet from today to discuss challenges facing the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS).
“The money that has been allocated, we want to secure it, and that discussion we’ve already had [with the national Treasury],” Jordaan said.
“We cannot have a business plan without a budget. When the taxi industry commits to this project, it must be sustainable. We are talking of over R650-million over the next two years.”
Rockman praised Jordaan’s leadership, saying he was a “wise man sent by God to this metro”.
“This is the beginning of a process to get the IPTS off the ground. Our campaign will only stop once the IPTS is off the ground,” he said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said the protest had been peaceful.
Had they intervened it could have aggravated the situation.
“It is unfortunate that the traffic flow was affected by this motorcade,” she said.
The Herald asked a senior police official on the scene why they did not enforce the law and remove the taxis. The officer could not answer.
According to the National Road Act, should drivers of vehicles parked illegally refuse to move them, authorities should either impound the vehicles for obstructing traffic or at least move them out of the road to allow for the free flow of traffic.
Asked why the police had failed to tow the taxis away or request that they be moved, Janse van Rensburg failed to respond. – Additional reporting by Gareth Wilson