South Africa: transport strike turned violent in Cape Town, three dead

Police say the port and tourist city of Cape Town has been paralyzed for days by a collective taxi strike that turned violent in South Africa’s largest city with three deaths recorded, police said Monday.

Thousands of commuters were stranded after stopping work on Thursday as drivers of minibuses, the main form of transport for millions of working-class South Africans, were blocking many roads.

On Monday, on the way to the airport, “one person was shot dead and three others injured” after hurling rocks at a motorcyclist, police said.

Authorities said another body, that of a 28-year-old man who died of multiple gunshot wounds in a “suspected taxi-related” attack, was found nearby.

On Friday night, a policeman was shot and killed while on patrol about 20 kilometers from Cape Town. Again, “we cannot rule out that this attack is related to the ongoing taxi strike,” the police commented, while agents “patrolled to prevent incidents related” to the strike.

The road to the airport, which had been frequently congested the night before, was finally cleared on Monday afternoon.

The British Embassy in South Africa posted a notice on Facebook last weekend advising travelers to delay travel “to and from the airport until the road is cleared”.

The Tourism Minister, Patricia de Lille, told AFP on Monday that she was discussing the taxi strike with the Premier of Cape Town “according to a note sent by the British authorities”, in order to find a quick solution.

South Africa’s National Taxi Council (Santaco) called for a march last week to protest new regulations giving the Cape Town city government the power to impound vehicles in violation such as driving without a license,do not display number plates and overload.

The situation worsened following the arrest of 15 minibuses on Tuesday.

Santaco said on Monday that 6,000 vehicles have been impounded since the start of the year and faced with the charges, it has “no choice” but to call for a strike. “It is clear that there has been premeditated action in the actions we have witnessed in recent days.

There have also been overt efforts targeting city employees and infrastructure,” the local government said in their statement.

“Clearly there have been some premeditated actions in recent days. There have also been overt efforts to target city staff and infrastructure,” the local government said in a statement on Monday.

Many city buses and vehicles were set on fire, personal vehicles were stoned and shot, and clinics had to close or reduce capacity due to the chaos.

Stores were looted, according to police, who announced the arrest of five suspected looters. Following the failure of negotiations over the weekend with Santaco, they announced that the shutdown would continue through Wednesday.

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