General secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi has rubbished claims by City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, who insists the violence erupted as the City “precisely” enforced national laws.
By Monday, at least one person had died in the taxi strike-related violence engulfing Cape Town.
City of Cape Town, through Smith, has maintained that “political opportunists” are adding fire to the crippling taxi strike and violence which has rocked the coastal city, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
In an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Monday night, Vavi hit back at Smith, saying the City of Cape Town has been unfairly targeting taxis.
“He (Smith) is not telling the truth. Saftu, every taxi association and driver in Cape Town and Western Cape as a whole are not advocating for lawlessness,” Vavi said in the televised interview.
“We are not asking for any favours from the city or from the Western Cape government. JP Smith is not telling the country the truth. Yes, there is the National Land Transport Act that should guide all of our provincial and local governments.”
That Act regulates the type of fines that should be issued for all the traffic offences.
“The difference, and what has complicated life for everybody in Cape Town is that they are not following the regulations from the National Land Transport Act. They are imposing their own, and the imposed regulations are draconian,” said Vavi.
“They are far more worse than you can imagine and when the taxi associations were seeking to engage the local government, they were simply told - we won’t talk, go to court.”
Vavi said the taxi associations have approached the courts and have been given a date in February 2024 for their challenges to the local road rules to be heard before the High Court in Cape Town.
“In the meantime, the regulations of the Cape Town city are saying if you do not wear a seatbelt, you do not get a fine, your car (taxi) gets impounded. On the first offence, you get to release your car at the rate of R7,000; on second offence R10,000; and third offence R15,000,” said Vavi.
Earlier on Monday, Smith told Newzroom Afrika that said there are unfortunate attempts by organisations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to personalise the issue around him, and turn it into a political saga.
“There are political opportunists along this process who are trying to turn this into a political matter, precisely like Cosatu. We expect little other comment like that from Cosatu as it is the kind of line they take with every altercation, with every conflict that arises. They attempt to personalise it and turn it into a political matter,” said Smith.
“The truth is we are doing precisely our jobs. There is a piece of legislation called the National Transportation Act which says we have to take the lives of people on our roads and in public transport seriously. That we have to enforce the law and when rules are broken, we have to act. We are doing it diligently. We are doing exactly what the law says.”
Cosatu in the Western Cape has accused Smith of “weaponising taxi regulations” in the City of Cape Town against taxi operators.
Smith said he does not comprehend how the law enforcement can provoke acts of murder, vandalism, thuggery, arson, disruption and destruction of infrastructure.
He said the laws being enforced in Cape Town are not the city’s by-laws, but national laws.
“I am becoming distraught at the continuous repeating of this narrative of a by-law because it is not honest. It is an attempt at distorting the narrative and distorting what is happening here and it is purposeful,” said Smith.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele lambasted Smith, as the taxi strike continued to flare up characterised by violent clashes.
Speaking to journalists during his tour of Riverlea in Joburg, Cele said he has been working with different stakeholders to resolve the problems engulfing the transport sector in Cape Town, and the violence.
“I read somewhere that JP Smith said Cele encouraged the taxi industry to go on strike. I do not want to talk with JP Smith, I think the guy needs serious psychological help. He needs serious psychological help,” said Cele who was accompanied by several SAPS management.