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A City of Cape Town council meeting on Thursday was disrupted before it even began, by EFF council members chanting: “Down with JP Smith” and “Bring back the taxis”.

JP Smith is the member of the mayoral committee for safety and security.

The EFF members held up placards and made their way to the centre of the council chamber, confronting Smith. At the same time, DA councillors surrounded Smith to protect him. Some EFF members were forcefully removed by law enforcement and security.

GOOD had requested a special sitting on the taxi industry a few days ago. This was denied by the speaker. Nevertheless, a debate on the taxi industry had been scheduled for later on Thursday, as part of the regular sitting of the council. The difference in the special and regular sitting is that each person would have more time to speak in a special sitting, rather than the standard two minutes.

After the EFF disruption, the debate on the taxi industry was taken to the 5th floor of the civic centre. The EFF and the ANC, which had also taken part in the disruption, were barred from the 5th floor meeting.

Other opposition parties were invited to join the meeting on the 5th floor but, in the ensuing chaos, many weren’t present when mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis began his address.

Hill-Lewis told the meeting: “I want to thank those parties that supported the local government in the strike. Thank you to the support also from communities — from taking people to work to letting people sleep over. These acts showed us the best of what Cape Town is.”

Santaco called a taxi protesttaxi on strike on August 3 in response to taxis being impounded by law enforcement. In his address Hill-Lewis said taxis were not impounded for malicious reasons. He said impounding took place under the National Land Transport Act (NLTA) and Operating Licence Conditions. He said Santaco had made unreasonable demands, including permission to drive on yellow and red lines.

“Violence has been a tactic of the taxi industry for decades and it will continue to be as long as it is enabled,” he said.

“The biggest elephant in the room was a lack of a passenger rail service. The MyCiTi and Golden Arrow bus services were stretched to the limit as they tried to make up some of the shortfall. And while our trains should’ve been ferrying tens of thousands of commuters home, Cape Town Station was a ghost town thanks to the collapse of Metrorail,” Hill-Lewis added.

On Wednesday GOOD councillor Jonathan Cupido said his party was disappointed that a special meeting was denied. “The taxi stay-away led to five deaths, property was damaged, food security was threatened and once again it was the poor and working-class who were left suffering.”

“GOOD does not condone the violent action that played out on the streets of the city but we need answers to what led us to this point,” Cupido said.

However, on Thursday GOOD condemned the EFF for disrupting the council meeting.

In Thursday’s debate Cupido said: “Reckless statements by JP Smith and supported by the mayor were a clear example of lack of leadership. We need a city that will engage the taxi industry … based on a business plan.”

Marvin Christians of the ACDP called for an independent investigation into the strike. “Those responsible need to be held accountable.” The mayor agreed with Christians and said the cost of the protest was being tallied and civil action was being considered.

Councillor Shameemah Salie of the Al Jama-ah party said: “The strike and destruction of property could all have been avoided.”

“How the heck does a leader threaten to impound 25 vehicles for every vehicle damaged?” she asked, referring to a widely criticised threat Smith made when the strike started.

Smith received a standing ovation from DA councillors towards the end of the debate. He said that only one taxi was impounded for every 500 fines given.

“We will continue to impound because it is the right thing to do,” Smith said, but noted this would only be for the most serious offences. He said that in the last few months, the city had received 23,000 complaints from the public about taxis.

In a media briefing after the debate, Hill-Lewis said: “There have been a series of good discussions [with Santaco] this week.” There is to be a three-day imbizo on the taxis with officials from the city, province and Santaco next week.


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