The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) has been applauded by many for deploying members to protect malls in Tshwane from possible looting, but the move has been slammed by others.
The association announced this week that it had “taken over the protection of three malls in Soshanguve” and would protect businesses in the area from the looting that has gripped parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal since the weekend.
National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) spokesperson Brenda Muridili said on Wednesday 1,234 people had been arrested in connection with mass looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Of those arrested, 549 were apprehended in KwaZulu-Natal and 683 in Gauteng. 72 people have died in the unrest in the two provinces and 14 murder cases were being investigated in KwaZulu-Natal and 19 in Gauteng.
Santaco said in protecting the malls it would “refrain from engaging in physical actions with perpetrators”.
“In the course to help stop vandalism and looting, we call on our structures countrywide to refrain from engaging in physical actions with perpetrators. Law enforcement remains the responsibility of government,” it said in a statement.
It came amid reports of taxi drivers guarding Vosloorus Mall in Gauteng opening fire on looters with what was believed to be live ammunition on Wednesday morning.
The taxi drivers from the Katlehong People’s Taxi Association opened fire on hundreds of looters who were gathering outside the mall, which had been ransacked overnight.
A 13-year-old boy was killed in the running battles.
Santaco also directed all its taxi leaders in KwaZulu-Natal to resume normal operations and said it would “help with cleaning efforts as part of bringing the province [back] to normality”.
Santaco’s statements were applauded by many online, but criticised by others who claimed it could lead to more violence.
Among those objecting to the move was EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, who said vigilantism should not be celebrated.
Mzansi do not celebrate Taxi drivers, owners, Indian & White militia groups being in charge of “public order policing” during a public riot. They are not law enforcement officers: they are citizens like all of us!
Don’t give this tendency credibility: it’s dangerous!
— Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (@MbuyiseniNdlozi) July 14, 2021
Here are several other reactions shared on social media:
They should have prevented the looting on the first place. Now they don’t have business.
— Mashilo Modiba (@Modibmt) July 14, 2021
What will happen rmto the citizens that decide to loot? Will they be shot at or beaten by the taxi owners and drivers (which will be illegal)?
The idea is good but what happens if it gets out if hand. They are not trained to deal with such chaos should it arise
— Oa Monaheng (@mathabata) July 13, 2021
They woke up too late.
Most places of work and shopping have been destroyed.
Filling stations are now dry, so they will have to park.
— Yenza Okuhle 🗣💞 (@inkingayodwa) July 14, 2021
Good on you guys, we must protect and save what is good for our communities, we must come together in pray and in action, this country is to beautiful to let it fall under anarchy
— jc (@jc07555078) July 13, 2021
If the protesters challenges the taxi drivers, how they going to defend themselves?
— Given Lethole (@GivenLethole) July 13, 2021
Thank you Santaco . You guy’s are better than the politicians praise the Lord..
— Erika Pirzl (@erika_pirzl) July 14, 2021