Striking taxi drivers in the City of Tshwane have warned corrupt Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers they will no longer be paying them bribes and are sick and tired of being harassed.
Taxi drivers yesterday blocked several roads and railway lines and pelted passing vehicles with rocks. About 100 taxi drivers, on foot and some in minibuses, went to Tshwane House to hand over a memorandum with their complaints about how law enforcement was issuing tickets and demanding that arrears be scrapped.
In the Pretoria city centre, taxi drivers assaulted random people on the street and snatched their phones from their hands. TMPD spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said they also heard that a young boy was viciously assaulted in the city centre, but could not confirm it by late yesterday afternoon.
President of the Democratic Taxi Workers Union, Lawrence Lekhoane, said TMPD officers issued fines “like it is going out of fashion because they want to force them to pay them bribes”. He said this had happened for 20 years.
“But we will pay no more bribes. Traffic officers, your time is up,” Lekhoane said.
The drivers refused the 50% fines discount which was on the table, saying they want fines completely scrapped.
“We don’t earn a minimum wage and we do not have credit to pay the fines, because this industry is still very much informal.”
Lekhoane said: “Some of the drivers owe as much as R200 000 in fines. This is basically killing poor men.”
Metrorail spokesperson Lilian Mofokeng said taxi drivers disrupted Metrorail train services operating from Mabopane to Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, yesterday morning by blocking the railway lines with objects under the Ruth First Bridge.
Taxi drivers also burned objects at the Pienaarspoort train station. MMC for roads and transport Sheila Senkubuge said the city strongly condemned the protest since it has not been authorised, but also because protesters had disrupted trains and private cars.
“The taxi industry approached the municipality to give them a certain discount to enable them to get their PDP and operating licences. This request is not in the mandate of the municipality.
“We approached province and we know that there is an offer of 50%,” she said.
National chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa, Howard Dembovsky, said that in recent years the Road Traffic Infringement Agency had been issuing increased volumes of enforcement orders. However, he said the concept that traffic fines issued to minibus taxi drivers should be treated any differently to those issued to ordinary motorists was nonsensical. – firstname.lastname@example.org