Several police vehicles gathered in the road, with police officials standing by, watching from the sidelines
AS YOUNG schoolchildren and students continued to join the protest in Colville and Florianville yesterday, taxi operators have given the Sol Plaatje Municipality until today to resolve the issue failing which they will cut off the municipal offices.
Around 80 vehicles from the Kimberley Taxi Association (KTA) descended on the municipal offices in Bultfontein Road yesterday, threatening to bring the local authority to a standstill over the apparent unwillingness of the executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, to personally address the community’s demands, which have led to violent community protests since last week, with threats that these could continue into next week.
The chairperson of the KTA, Shaun Wilkinson, said yesterday that taxi operators had lost four days of work and income as a result of the protests, which saw roads leading into and out of Roodepan and several other suburbs blocked with rocks and burning tree branches.
“The roads that have been blocked are on the routes that our association operates, so we have been unable to transport people in and out of the area over the last four days. We have been forced to use alternative routes, which has caused friction with other taxi associations,” said Wilkinson.
The taxi operators threatened not to the leave the municipal offices until the mayor addressed the protests, which, they pointed out, had a ripple effect throughout the city.
The general secretary of the KTA, John Paul, added that around three of their vehicles had been damaged by protesters.
“The alternative routes we have been forced to use are in a bad condition, which has also resulted in further damage to our vehicles,” he added.
Paul further stated that commuters were the ones suffering.
“We have had to drop people off far from their homes. Many have had to walk long distances, some through dangerous sections of veld that are known to be crime hot spots. We have not been able to deliver a decent service to our commuters over the past few days.”
Addressing the taxi operators, Matika said that he would be holding a meeting with community representatives later yesterday afternoon.
He pointed out that the taxi operators were not the only ones affected by the protest action but also pupils, who had missed out on valuable school time, and also some community members who could not get to work.
“I am meeting with representatives from the community at 5pm today (yesterday).”
The taxi operators left after warning the mayor that they would be back this morning and block off the municipality, rendering it dysfunctional, unless the matter was resolved and the roads reopened.
Meanwhile, scores of schoolchildren have take up the grievances of the community and were yesterday morning seen building a makeshift wall to block off Barkly Road.
They also set trees and rubbish alight and very young children, some around three to four years old, were seen dancing around the flames, while adults stood by and watched.
The youngsters also emptied buckets containing raw sewage onto the road, cheered on by adults, who pointed out that this would prevent the police from entering the area.
Several police vehicles gathered in the road, with police officials standing by, watching from the sidelines.
Some of the police officials said that their hands were tied because it was children involved in the protests.
The Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Lehuma Ntuane, said that although schools were open, they advised parents to use their own discretion on whether to send their children to school.
“Schools in the areas where protest action took place were not closed but we did have to exercise caution during this time. We advised parents to use their own discretion on whether they wanted to send their children to school. We have, however, noticed that many pupils opted not to attend school.
“We did not want to play into the hands of protesters by closing the schools but had to keep the safety of pupils in mind,” said Ntuane.