‘Taxing’ the taxis: Cape Town operators accuse Codeta of extortion

The Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations has vehemently denied that its marshals are running extortion rackets on township routes.

South Africa's huge minibus taxi industry pays "basically nothing" in corporate income taxes. Image: © Alexey Stiop /123rf.com

CAPE TOWN - As the number of dead in ongoing taxi violence in Cape Town rises, operators are accusing one large taxi association of extortion.

Legitimate operators with valid permits have told Eyewitness News that they are frequently subject to shakedowns by Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) marshals, a claim Codeta vehemently denies.

The provincial transport department acknowledges the phenomenon is commonplace, but wouldn't be drawn on whether a particular association was to blame.

Even national Police Minister Bheki Cele has officially expressed his concern over such practices.

MOUNTING DEATH TOLL

We're not even halfway through 2021 but already authorities in the Western Cape believe that upwards of 25 people have been killed in taxi-related violence.

READ: Another taxi owner shot dead in Cape Town, woman wounded

More often than not, the contestation over routes is at the heart of the conflict.

It's a big money business, with taxis ferrying the bulk of commuters not only in the Western Cape but nationwide.

Now a new allegation is sparking tensions, with taxi bosses pointing the finger at Codeta, accusing it of running extortion rackets on township routes.

Cape Town taxi owners spoke to Eyewitness News on condition that we did not name them.

Although they had gone through the official process to obtain permits to operate on lucrative township routes, they claimed that marshals wearing Codeta garb habitually stopped legitimate drivers and illegally seized their vehicles if they did not have a letter from the association. The marshals then demanded R1,500 to release the vehicles.

'TAX WITHOUT ANY PAPERWORK'

“Nyanga, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha… these operators on that side, they basically tax us without any paperwork. They are robbing us,” said one taxi owner.

Another operator, who makes the bulk of his income transporting staff for companies in the city, told Eyewitness News about the last time this happened to him.

“I was stopped and told to go get into a car and one of their marshals got into my vehicle and drove it to the taxi rank.”

As a matter of law, no taxi organisation has the right to police routes.

Codeta spokesperson Andile Khanyi said that they were fully aware of this fact and said that these incidents were a fiction.

“There is no such thing. Absolutely, I deny that.”

The Western Cape Transport Department is in charge of managing routes, permits and, to some extent at least, safety in the industry.

It would not be drawn on specifics or lay the blame at the door of any particular organisation but it was aware of the phenomenon and took it seriously enough to issue a formal blanket warning to all operators to stop such practices or face legal consequences.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.