Cape Town - Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell has called on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prioritise cases of extortion against members of the minibus taxi industry in the Western Cape.
This after his department was inundated with complaints from e-hailing operators and private transport victims of extortion who have been harassed allegedly by taxi operators and who have had their vehicles impounded when they operated in certain communities and at shopping malls.
Mitchell said he recently engaged the e-hailing and minibus taxi industry leadership and asked that they condemn those criminal acts by their members.
“These acts are criminal and I will use all legal avenues available to me to bring these actions to an end. When people linked to the taxi industry are involved in criminal acts such as extortion, intimidation and murder, my department plays a clear supporting role to the police and the NPA, whose mandate it is to ensure that the rule of law is applied,” Mitchell said.
Two e-hailing companies, Bolt and Uber, said they were aware of the reported incidents.
Uber’s head of communications, Mpho Sebelebele, said the safety of their riders and drivers was a top priority. They have several safety features available such as an In-App emergency button which was linked to private security and 24/7 in-app support.
However, he said they were monitoring the situation, and the Incident Response Team was available 24/7 to respond immediately to any reported incidents.
SADC regional manager at Bolt, Gareth Taylor, said crimes against e-hailing drivers continued to be a national issue of great concern and the safety of passengers and drivers who used their platform was of utmost importance.
“Bolt is actively engaging with national, provincial and local government, and the police at local and national levels to address this scourge and work together to improve safety for e-hailing drivers in SA,” he said.
Congress of Democratic Taxi Association spokesperson Andile Khanyi said they never received any complaints accusing their drivers of intimidation.
Khanyi said as far as he knew they had patrollers who monitored illegal operators in the townships.
“Everybody can protect their job, this is not a new thing, because at the end of the day we do not want to fight, and the same government is going to blame us that we are fighting over nothing. We will not allow illegal operators to take over the job of the taxi industry,” he said.
SA National Taxi Council provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer said it distanced itself from “any criminal” activities. “We denounce this unlawful behaviour,” he said.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila was approached about Mitchell’s plea, but had not responded by the time of publication.
Said Mitchell: “If any association or operator registered with the Provincial Taxi Registrar is found guilty of such a criminal act in a court of law, the registrar and the provincial regulatory entity may act to de-register such associations or operators and withdraw operating licences of individual owners.”
He said as the MEC responsible for the regulation of transport in the province, he would not allow a criminal few to hold the system to ransom.
“Commuters have a right to choose transport of their choice and not to be harassed and intimidated when they choose to use public transport modes and forms which do not suit a selfish few who are protecting their vested interests,” he said.