Patently angry taxi drivers questioned why government resorted to bringing in the SA National Defence Force to their “peaceful” protest. As Mbalula struggled to field the many questions thrown to him by volatile drivers, his security detail opted to put the minister into a vehicle which drove off.
Mbalula rushed to the area after police opened fire on taxi operators, firing rubber bullets in an attempt to bring order to the area. Taxi operators who had blocked roads with burning tires were forced to flee after police strong-armed them off the roads.
Although his first attempt at addressing crowds failed, he is in the area to inform the operators that government had scrapped the barrel clean.
The KwaZulu-Natal taxi bosses have also put their hand up to possibly down tools on Wednesday this week in support of taxi operators’ demand for government to dig deeper into their pockets to provide support to the sector following an over R1-billion relief fund pledge to the sector.
Mbalula, in an effort to extinguish tensions between government and taxi operators, announced a R1.135-billion relief fund on Friday, accessible to operators under certain conditions.
While some Gauteng taxi operators intensified their dissatisfaction on Monday, blocking roads using their minibus taxis while others set tyres on fire, all in an attempt to send a message to government, Sanco has appealed calm from operators Sanco said the shut down was meant to be a peaceful protest.
The R55 in Olievenhoutbosch, Centurion, which was closed by aggrieved operators, has been opened after police stepped in on Monday morning.
Citizen photographer Jacques Nelles while at the scene said police were clearing blocked roads.
“At one point one of the protesters attempted to light up more tyres but the police quickly intervened and pushed the protesting taxi drivers back, firing rubber bullets at them. Shortly after that most of the drivers left with their taxis.”