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Traffic officers attacked

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An attack on traffic officers launched a high alert law enforcement presence on the Paarl/Mbekweni route on Jan van Riebeeck Drive, direction Wellington on Monday.Photo: Heleen Rossouw
An attack on traffic officers launched a high alert law enforcement presence on the Paarl/Mbekweni route on Jan van Riebeeck Drive, direction Wellington on Monday.Photo: Heleen Rossouw


Numerous Paarl residents were disgusted in reaction to what they described as “being held hostage” in the Dal Josaphat Traffic Centre during taxi violence on Monday.

A number of taxis invaded the Dal Josaphat Traffic Centre, Paarl, on Monday 18 October which led to swift reaction and a high police presence on Jan van Riebeeck Drive, otherwise known as the Paarl/Mbekweni route (B97) to Wellington. Nyalas were on standby for potential violent clashes. However, order in the area was soon restored.

The testing site was blocked by a cluster of taxis in what later appeared to be passive action to obstruct the entrance to the testing centre.

One resident who was among the “hostages” at the centre, Chandré Hartogh, commented: “We were held hostage in the buildings for more than five hours. Nobody came to tell us what’s going on or to calm us down – nothing.”

Hartogh added that police were sitting and “chilling” in their vehicles.

She and other visitors to the traffic centre spoke out about their disappointment in the municipality’s handling of the situation – it was evident that they had no dister management plans in place for such a hostile takeover.

The Drakenstein Municipality’s Executive Director of Community Services, Gerald Esau, responded with the following: “[The attack on traffic officers] took place at the taxi impound lot and nobody was held hostage.

“As the entrance to the centre was blocked and there was no means to exit, the public was moved into the traffic offices for safety precautions. Once the situation at the taxi impound was stabilised, public order policing members (Pops) cleared the entrance of all taxis.”

Esau added that the public was asked to remain patient until Pops could clear the area for their safe passage out of the premises.

“The municipality has arranged trauma counselling for its traffic office attendants,” Esau concluded.

Minister Mitchel condemns attack

Western Cape Minister of Transport Daylin Mitchell condemned the attack on traffic officers on Monday morning, allegedly carried out by taxi drivers in reaction to an operation on a closed route.

Says Mitchell: “Seven taxis were impounded during a joint operation on the closed Paarl/Mbekweni Route B97, and three taxi operators were arrested.”

“During the impoundment, some taxi operators blocked the road in an attempt to stop the operation.

“A taxi then drove straight towards a traffic officer with the intention of knocking him over.

“The officer fired shots at the wheels of the taxi, forcing it to stop. The taxi driver was arrested and charged with attempted murder.”

Mitchell added that two other operators were also arrested.

“One was charged with assault of a traffic officer and another charged with interfering with a law enforcement officer while exercising his duty.

Taxi driver’s frustrations

According to a 27-year-old taxi driver on the scene, who wished to remain anonymous, the action was as a result of frustration about what he described as targeted harassment by the traffic department towards taxis functioning in the Mbekweni area.

“We are taxi drivers from Mbekweni. We are here because our taxis have been impounded every day on the routes. They put up roadblocks during every peak traffic hour. Taxi drivers from areas like Wellington are driving freely, and only our taxis get pulled off in road blocks by which they demand a driver’s licence and area permits. But they do not want to grant us our permits to function in Mbekweni,” the driver explained.

In his statement, Mitchell elaborated on the matter: “While there has subsequently been relative calm between the two taxi associations that are contesting the route, processes and joint operations have been put in place by an intergovernmental group led by the police and my department to ensure the agreement signed by the parties is monitored and that the closure is strictly enforced.”

He referred to the Cata and Codeta affiliated parties that have been participating in a formal arbitration process to determine who has rights to operate on Route B97 and other contentious routes in the area.

The arbitration process was led in reaction to a period of taxi violence that plagued the Drakenstein community during July earlier this year.

This process is nearing completion, with the last hearing having been conducted on Friday 8 October and the arbitrator now preparing her findings and recommendations for publishing in early November, Mitchell said.

“We will not tolerate illegal operations on this closed route. Nor will we tolerate attacks on our officers who are doing their jobs in enforcing this closure. The law will be upheld, and those who break it will be held accountable.”

Numerous taxis took to the Dal Josaphat Traffic Centre, Paarl on 18 October, which swiftly led to a high police presence in Jan van Riebeeck Drive, or the Paarl/Mbekweni route (B97) to Wellington. Nyalas were on standby for potential violent clashes. But order in the area prevailed.

The testing site was blocked by a cluster of taxis in what later appeared to be passive action to obstruct the entrance to the testing centre.

Provincial police spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk said: “No-one was injured in the incident and four suspects aged between 34 and 58 were arrested, of whom one was subsequently released. The remaining three taxi drivers are facing charges for two attempted murder cases and an assault case. “Investigations continue. The arrested suspects appeared in the Paarl Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 19 October.”

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