20 March 2019

South Africa: Update - More Than 50 Taxi Operators Arrested for Closing Roads Across the Vaal Triangle

More than 50 taxi operators were arrested on Wednesday for blockading roads and allegedly pelting vehicles with stones around the Vaal Triangle.

Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said the group was arrested in Vereeniging after its members refused to disperse from the roads they had barricaded.

Masondo said the taxi operators became violent when police ordered them to vacate the roads and allow traffic to flow.

"We have arrested more than 50 people who refused to obey our instructions when we ordered them to vacate the roads. Protesters also refused to remove objects they had used to barricade roads when ordered to do so. Instead, they became violent and threw stones at passing motor vehicles and we had to act," said Masondo.

The arrested group will face charges of public violence in court soon.

Masondo promised that various police units sent to the Vaal would continue monitoring the area until calm was restored.

The Vaal Triangle has been brought to its knees since Tuesday night by 12 angry taxi associations that blockaded all roads leading into and out of the the area, including neighbouring townships.

Taxis operators affiliated to the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) began their planned seven-day strike on Tuesday night.

In some roads, taxi operators used trucks to barricade roads preventing traffic from flowing.

They were demanding answers from the provincial government over the completion of a taxi rank and mushrooming potholes on all their routes.

Santaco spokesperson in Sedibeng, Mbuyiseni Mahlangu, said the events expected to take place in Sharpeville on Thursday would go ahead only if Gauteng Premier David Makhura attended to their grievances.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to be the main speaker at the annual commemoration of the Sharpeville massacre on March 21, 1960, during which 69 people were killed and 180 people were injured.

This comes as government departments and political parties are expected to hold several events commemorating Human Rights Day in the area.

Mahlangu was "deeply concerned" by the treatment Santaco - an organisation which ferries people from one destination to the other - received from the government.

"We have been promised a taxi rank in Vereeniging for over six years now and it has not been completed to date. No one is telling us why the rank is not complete. People are robbed at our rank in Vereeniging and when it rains, there is no shelter for them to wait.

"Our other concern is about many potholes that are everywhere in the Vaal, especially on routes that we use. We pay for licences like everyone who owns a car, and we deserve to drive on smooth roads without potholes," said Mahlangu.

Taxi operators had earlier vowed that buses and minibus taxis would not operate for the week until their demands were met.

Source: <b>News24</b>

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