Transport minister sides with striking taxi drivers in battle against City of Cape Town

 ·8 Aug 2023

Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has called the City of Cape Town’s impounding of taxis unlawful, and says the city should release the vehicles without conditions.

In a media briefing on Tuesday (8 August), amid violent protest by striking taxi operators, the minister accused the City of Cape Town of targeting taxi drivers with by-laws that go beyond what is allowed by the National Land Transport Act.

While condemning the violence and calling for an end to the strike, the minister also laid the blame for the eruption of unrest at the feet of city officials.

“The City of Cape Town has introduced conditions of operating licences, by-laws which the taxi industry has expressed reservations on. The Task Team that was established to address the concerns has not made headway, resulting in the city implementing the impounding of vehicles based on these conditions,” she said.

“It is an integral part of our legal system that administrative decisions must be based on the principle of legality. We have national laws in place that govern the infringements and penalties dealt with in the contested conditions of operating licences.

“The national laws are in place to ensure that fair rules are applicable to all citizens irrespective of the city or province they reside in. This is a constitutional mandate to ensure order and effectiveness of the rule of law.”

Chikunga said that a city cannot “define itself outside the parameters of national laws and implement penalties that are out of sync with these laws”.

The National Land Transport Act deals with impoundments in Chapter 7 section 87 as follows:

87. Impoundment of vehicles

(1) An authorised officer who is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a motor vehicle is being used by any person for the operation of public transport without the necessary operating licence or permit or contrary to the conditions thereof, may impound the vehicle pending the investigation and prosecution of that person for an offence mentioned in section 90(1)(a) or (b).

(2) A vehicle impounded under subsection (1) must be delivered to the head of the depot contemplated in subsection (4), who must retain the vehicle in the depot and release it to the person concerned only-

  • (a) when the criminal charges against the person have been withdrawn or the person has been acquitted of the offence charged; or
  • (b) in the case where the person is convicted of the offence charged, and unless the court has ordered otherwise, on payment to the head of the depot of the amount determined by the MEC, which is an impoundment fee.

(3) The impoundment fee must be increased accordingly, for the second or subsequent impoundment of a vehicle.

(4) The MEC or municipality may, by notice in the Provincial Gazette, designate any suitable place defined in the notice to be a depot.

(5) The MEC or municipality may amend or withdraw such notice, as it deems fit.

(6) The MEC or municipality must appoint an authorised person as the head of the depot.

Chikunga went further, calling City of Cape Town leaders and authorities arrogant and blaming them for abandoning negotiations with the taxi industry and not budging. This claim comes despite taxi operator and industry body Santaco being the ones to drop out of talks last week, leading to the violence.

The minister said that while the government has been trying to negotiate an end to the strike with Santaco, the city’s representatives have not been present, undermining the process as it is a critical player in ending the violent actions.

“We call on the city to return to the negotiating table to address the areas of disagreement and demonstrate a genuine effort to find a lasting resolution to the current challenges,” she said.


In a statement following the address, the City of Cape Town responded to Chikunga’s allegations, calling them misinformed and misleading.

The city said that all of the impounded taxis were done so for violating the National Land Transport Act – not the city’s by-laws – making Chikunga’s entire position on the matter incorrect.

“The City’s Traffic By-Law was recently amended to extend impoundments to private vehicles for a range of serious offences. All public vehicles continue to be dealt with under the NLTA as always,” it said.

“The National Land Transport Act was introduced by national government to regulate public transport. It is not city legislation, and so the minister’s demand that we release taxis falls foul of the very legislation that national government introduced.”

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis also dismissed Chikunga’s claims that the by-laws were unlawful and that the city was not willing to negotiate with the taxi industry.

He said that talks with the taxi industry cannot happen while violence continues.

He added that the city would not release the taxis as ordered by the minister, and would not be intimidated into acquiescence through violence.

He criticised Chikunga for being the “minister of taxis”, saying that her role is to serve the interests of commuters, not the taxi industry.

“We reiterate our call on Santaco to return – peacefully – to the negotiation table,” he said.

The Democratic Alliance previously said that the narrative that taxi operators are being targetted using by-laws are being pushed by “opportunistic politicians” to undermine the City of Cape Town’s authority.

“It is essential to emphasise that enforcement measures, including the impounding of vehicles, are conducted under the stipulations of the National Land Transport Act. This matter falls under the jurisdiction of national legislation and is not a local legislative issue,” it said.

“Misleading narratives presented by opportunistic politicians not only misinform the public but also undermine the lawful actions taken by the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government.”

Business interruptions

The taxi strike has had a profound impact on services and businesses in affected areas in Cape Town.

Business representative group, Business Unita South Africa (BUSA) raised concerns about the escalarion of violence and the impact on supply chains and business activity in particular.

“We are concerned that employees are unable to travel to work. We are also concerned about the impact on food security because transport of goods is affected by the violence and criminal activity, which includes incidents of looting,” it said.

“This must be of sincere concern to government at all levels and we urge both the Western Cape government and government at national level to bolster law and order presence in volatile areas and ensure strong action is taken against people using this set of circumstances for criminal activity.

“We must guard against a repetition of the insurrection that occurred in July 2021.”

Read: US, UK and Australia issue alerts over taxi violence in South Africa

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