Eastern Cape: SAPS strongly condemns #ProtestAction by taxi drivers / owners in the Eastern Cape

King William’s Town: The South African Police Service strongly condemns the actions of the taxi owners/drivers who participated in the Provincial protest organised by SANTAGO in the Eastern Cape Province. We want to reiterate that while the taxi owner/drivers have a Constitutional right to protest, those very rights do not imply that people must infringe on the right of movement of other people, destroy property, be violent and intimidate others. This follows after several roads across the province have been blockaded by taxis, burning tyres and rubble from the early hours of this morning.

A total of 14 suspects were arrested for various crimes including but not limited to public violence, attempted murder and, damage to essential structures. It must be noted that when police monitor these protests, resources are diverted from core mandate of policing.

Police hastened to act and arrested two (2) suspects, aged between 23 and 26 in Lady Frere Bridge for obstruction of the road while one (1) suspect aged 26, was arrested for attempted robbery of a police firearm. It is alleged that Public Order Policing members deployed in the area were removing vehicles that were blocking the road and the suspect stole the shotgun belonging to one of members. The firearm was recovered immediately. The vehicles were towed away. All the suspects will appear in the Lady Free Magistrates Court soon.

Aliwal North police arrested three (3) suspects aged between 26 and 30 for various charges ranging from public violence, blocking a National Road (Criminal Matters Amendment Act), for an attempted murder where the suspect allegedly tried to run over a SAPS member with a vehicle. One fine was issued for traffic violation. All roads to Aliwal North have now been opened. All the suspects will appear in the Aliwal North Magistrates Court soon.

Four (4) suspects aged between 25 and 71 were arrested by police on the R72 near first Chalumna Turn off where taxi drivers allegedly barricaded the road with burning tyres and stones. Public Order Policing members were activated and arrested the suspects for public violence. One (1) Toyota Quantum and an Isuzu bakkie were also confiscated. The suspects will appear in the East London Magistrates Court soon.

Sporadic criminal incidents were also encountered – it is alleged that at about 07:30 a cement truck driver stopped his truck to do a repair between Bluewater Bay and Truckers Inn on the N2, Port Elizabeth. As he was about to drive off again, a minibus taxi pulled up in front of him. Six (6) suspects got out armed with sticks and stones. They demanded his truck to block off the N2 as part of taxi protest. They also robbed him of 2 cell phones and GPS of the truck. The driver ran away and on police arrival he returned to inform police of his ordeal. A robbery case was opened at Swartkops SAPS.

In Port Elizabeth, Algoa Park police opened a case under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act and the Road Traffic Act where it is alleged that taxi drivers blockaded the road near Kenako Mall and damaged the signage boards and roads by burning tyres. No arrests were effected.

Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga commended the SAPS members for stamping the authority of the state and for working without fear or favour to protect the citizens of the province and their property. She also condemned the actions of the taxi owners/drivers. “SAPS members together with Law Enforcement Agencies were operationally ready to police the disruptions by the taxi industry operators. Members will continue to monitor the situation in all the areas that were affected by the protests, although majority of the roads have been opened. In the same light, a call is made to all stakeholders to abide by the law and use all the relevant channels to have their grievances addressed”.