The big story: Taxi violence in Cape Town

An uneasy peace has settled over Cape Town after a rather drastic decision was taken to tackle the deadly taxi violence plaguing the city. 

Desperate authorities on Saturday suspended the contested route for two months. This, after repeated failed attempts to mediate with the warring taxi factions. 

Some background: over 80 people have been killed in the all-out war between Cata and Codeta over the lucrative Paarl to Bellville taxi route. The two taxi associations split in the early 1990s and have borne a grudge against each other since. The violence has ramped up, with drivers, passengers and bystanders killed and injured. While the taxi associations and their umbrella association are included in Cape Town’s integrated transport plan, the real issue is WHY we have these minibus taxis in the first place. The Group Areas Act of the 1950s saw black, coloured and Asian communities brutally kicked out of more central, affluent areas and dropped along the city’s margins. Decades later, working class people of colour still mostly live very far from their places of work, thanks to the downright distorted spatial reality apartheid left us with. Consider the fact that it’s nearly 50km from the Mbekweni informal settlement in Paarl to Belville. 🛺

So what next? The route is suspended for two months and the army has been stationed to ensure Cata and Codeta don’t try anything. More Golden Arrow busses have been deployed to help people get around. There were reports earlier in the week that many people still feared using taxis and that some children hadn’t returned to school because their parents were worried about violence. The province’s transport department is the regulator for taxi routes in the Western Cape and is looking to permanently close certain routes, which needs a formal legal process and gazetting. Some of the routes are not optimal for commuters, who have to take multiple taxis as drivers are scared to enter contested territory.  

What has come out of this intractable situation, however, is rather welcome cooperation across large sections of our society. The ANC-led national government and DA-led local government worked hard together to try to find a solution, while opposition figures like Bantu Holomisa and Zwelinzima Vavi also tried to help, and churches prayed. We want to see more of this: politicians putting aside their differences and actively seeking solutions. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 29 July 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.