A confusing situation unfolded on Monday when several roads within the vicinity of the central business district (CBD) were blockaded by Police and traffic officials. According to the Police it was part of a joint operation reportedly to search for vehicles carrying illicit goods. Information that it was a precautionary measure in response to rumours of violent protest planned by long distance taxi operators at the Department of Transport, Safety, Security and Liaison headquarters was also received.
While both the department and Long Distance Taxi Operators Association confirmed that roads were blocked because of the rumours, Polokwane Police maintained their stance about it being a joint operation which commenced at 02:30 on Monday. Spokesperson on Transport for the department, Kagiso Mootane said rumours of intended protest were received early Monday morning and measures taken to secure the building.
“Several taxi operators peacefully came to the department on Monday to clarify that there is no such threat to attack either MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana or the building. While there they expressed their unhappiness and made allegations on several taxis which are owned by traffic officials or members of the Police but are operating without permits. They alleged that these taxis are never stopped and checked by officials,” Mootane said. She added that the complainants were asked to put allegations in writing to be investigated.
The Chairperson of the Community Policing Forum (CPF) for the Polokwane Cluster, Frans Kgasago confirmed that the blockade was as result of the alleged rumours. “When a Police officer told me on Monday morning what the situation was, I immediately phoned all taxi associations to get to the bottom of the story and all of them denied being responsible. Neither of them confirmed any kind of protest or attack,” Kgasago said.
Secretary of the Long Distance Taxi Operators Association, Galema Ngswane was of the same opinion. “The rumours have been coming for some time. On Monday I found the roads blocked by law enforcers and I was told that rumours were doing the rounds of a possible attack on the MEC or the department. All local taxi associations have good relationships with the MEC and the department. There is no reason for anyone of us to attack her or the department,” Ngswane said.
Head of Communication at the Polokwane Police, Ntobeng Phala said Police joined by provincial and municipal traffic officials, Limpopo Disaster Management and the municipal community safety department blocked the roads from 02:30 in an effort to locate vehicles allegedly transporting illegal goods. “It might have been a coincidence that our operation and the rumours about the department were at the same time, but as Police we can confirm that the operation had nothing to do with the rumours and was conducted on its own,” Phala said. He added that the suspected vehicles did not pitch and the operation was called off just after noon. No arrests were made.
Story: RC Myburgh