Taxi Mayhem Brings Windhoek CBD to a Standstill

High drama ensued on Friday afternoon when taxi drivers clashed with the police at the intersection of Mandume Ndemufayo and Davy Street in Windhoek’s central business district (CBD).

Scores of onlookers crowded the intersection and spilled onto the streets as emotions ran high when a convoy of taxi drivers parked their vehicles in the middle of one of Windhoek’s most congested intersections and brought the city to a halt.

The drivers started their rally at the intersection of the B1 Highway and Mandume Ndemufayo streets. They then travelled in convoy towards the intercity disturbing all available lanes of traffic until they reached one of the main arteries of the city and parked their cars, blocking traffic from all directions.

Soon police swarmed the scene to try and restore order. The taxi drivers responded with chants protesting high traffic fines imposed by traffic regulators. The police met the protesters with overwhelming numbers and soon detained two visibly emotional men who were forcibly removed from their cars.

Groups of Special Field Force officers arrived to assist the police and traffic officers on the scene.

Tensions were soon calmed when police cocked their AK47s and threatened to use pepper spray.

Traffic had at this point packed up to stretch the length of Wernhill Park and beyond to Wika Service Station, around 50 metres away.

The officers cleared the taxis and had others towed away to be impounded. Officers then cordoned off the entire stretch of Mandume Ndemufayo Street from John Meinert Street up to the Zambian Embassy.

Police, including those in plain clothes, descended on the city centre and caused confusion to some drivers who questioned the authority of these officers, especially one dressed in overalls and sandals.

This stage of the taxi driver-police stand-off caused tremendous confusion among the peak hour commuters, forcing some members of the public to engage in highly inappropriate and illegal manoeuvres in attempts crossing barriers to avoid waiting in traffic for any longer.

When The Namibian approached Werner Januarie, president of the Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU) on Friday night he said, “I have no information about what transpired today. I was in Donkerhoek when the whole thing happened. To our surprise it was mentioned by police officers when we met them today.”

He was however agitated that the police would not give them permission to march.

“The police refused to give us a reply on our notice of march.

“We had to give them three day notice but today was only the second day.

Januarie repeated his mantra of the last few months. “We want fines to be reduced!”

Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga told The Namibian that he declined the application of taxi drivers to demonstrate as he foresaw chaos on a rather busy day.

He said five people were arrested while taxis that were parked in the road were impounded and the owners will be fined for that indiscretion.

Ndeitunga said the strike caused an inconvenience to residents, especially on the day when Namibia is hosting the Nigerian president and the new national museum was opened. It is also the eve of Independence Day.

“They are very irresponsible,” he said.

Taxi drivers are on an indefinite strike since Wednesday 19 March.

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Source : The Namibian