MAYHEM erupted late last night as the Nelson Mandela Bay taxi strike turned violent, with stone- throwing, petrol bombings and vehicles set alight across the metro.
Two clinics in Motherwell and an ANC office in NU7 were gutted by fire.
In Heugh Road, Walmer, youths in an attack on the municipal office near Ninth Avenue clashed with police, briefly exchanging gunfire, before they dispersed.
The municipality barricaded taxi ranks yesterday after the violence began, leaving a trail of torched and damaged vehicles.
Both municipal and private vehicles have been set alight since the strike resumed on Monday, again leaving tens of thousands of commuters stranded.
Police spokesman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said several people were arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property.
They will appear in court later this week. Van Rensberg said the police would do everything in their power to protect the community.
“We will act against those who disrespect the law and we won‘t tolerate any disruptions.”
A heavy police contingent barricaded routes leading to the Govan Mbeki taxi rank after a municipal bakkie and a sedan were set alight during lunchtime yesterday.
Firefighters had to swiftly attend to two municipal vehicles, one in Strand Street and the other in Govan Mbeki Avenue, after they were petrol- bombed.
On Monday, a bakkie transporting people to work was set alight after its driver and occupants were forced out of the vehicle by a group of men travelling in two taxis.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said four sedan vehicles were badly damaged after they were pelted with stones at Struanway on Monday.
Earlier yesterday, a tipper truck belonging to a private company was petrol-bombed by youths in Victoria Drive, Walmer, after they jumped in front of the vehicle, forcing the driver to stop.
Janse van Rensburg said the group threw petrol bombs at the truck and ran away, leaving its cab badly damaged.
Late last night, gangs of youngsters were seen in Heugh Road near Walmer Township stoning cars.
And on the Uitenhage Road motorists were also being stoned.
Congress of the People (Cope) regional interim chairman Mike Xego has joined those condemning the strike, saying the party does not want to see the community suffer because of a decision made by a few individuals.
“There are people calling for a consumer boycott, we are saying let us give all the role players involved two weeks to resolve this amicably.
“If, after two weeks, there is no solution, then we, as Cope, will call on the community to gather in the halls and discuss a way forward.”
Xego said they could not allow the decision of a few to affect the majority. The people in the townships were suffering, children were forced to walk to school and adults were forced to walk to work.
DA provincial safety and security spokesman Bobby Stevenson called on the police to urgently intervene to ensure that a climate of freedom from fear of intimidation existed in Mandela Bay.
“It is a shocking indictment of our society that buses are not running because of fear of intimidation. A situation of lawlessness cannot be tolerated in a democracy, and our economy cannot be held to ransom.”
Stevenson said he had written to the provincial commissioner requesting that police members travel with commuters on buses equipped with radios.
Police vehicles should escort buses and that rapid response units be located in strategic spots to ensure the free movement of buses and other vehicles that wish to convey workers to work.
Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Percci) has condemned the acts of violence and intimidation.
Percci chief executive Odwa Mtati said: “The current situation is completely unacceptable as it removes the ability of business to plan and to operate effectively, and tramples on the rights to economic activity of individuals and businesses who are not party to the strike.”
SA National Civic Organisation secretary general Mcebisi Msizi yesterday warned that the strikes could lead to a backlash where consumers decided to boycott taxis.
“If taxis continue to abuse the sympathy of commuters, they might be taking them for granted,” said Msizi.
The metro‘s infrastructure and engineering executive director, Ali Said, said the taxi strike might jeopardise the expenditure of the directorate because construction on the BRT was suspended after construction workers received threats.
Said was speaking at a standing committee meeting yesterday.
The suspension might also compromise the hosting of the 2010 World Cup because, according to an agreement between the city and Fifa, there must be an accessible transport system and people must be safe.
“The strike was compromising both of these aspects.”
He said a report on the cost caused to the municipality by the disruption would be presented at the next committee meeting.
source The Herald
Additional reporting By Tabelo Timse and Nomahlubi Sonjica
For video footage of the taxi strike visit theherald.co.za