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SAFETY & SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 September 1999
CRIME INTELLIGENCE, BORDER POLICING AND TAXI VIOLENCE: BRIEFING
Presentations to the committee on:
Taxi Violence (attached to end of minutes)
(1) Crime Intelligence
Chief Commissioner Fivaz opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of re-structuring crime intelligence, particularly for the operational capacity of new units such as the Scorpions. There has been a worldwide tendency to create a single database for crime intelligence, as the problems with fragmented approaches become ever clearer. All operatives in South Africa should therefore be able to access the same database (whether they be the Scorpions, the South African National Defence Force etc).
Commissioner Williams said that the overall objective is to create an effective crime intelligence system for the SAPS. The establishment of a National Crime Combating Forum will help achieve this objective. More specifically, improvements can be made through development of:
- capacity of crime intelligence sources to gather information;
- the means by which different intelligence operatives interact and cooperate in using this information;
- the manner in which information is analysed;
- the way in which information is ultimately utilised (by way of strategic advice) for crime prevention and combating organised crime
The key crimes in which intelligence will focus on are:
Vehicle related crimes;
Crimes against the state.
Commissioner Williams concluded that much has been achieved in improving crime intelligence in the last eighteen months in respect of re-training, information gathering and affirmative action.
Commissioner Fivaz pointed out that ordinary officers should feed information into the system, and that this can be facilitated through compulsory filling in of forms at the end of each shift. This, he suggests, is the only way to create an effective
crime intelligence system. Much useful information is presently being wasted when officers fail to input valuable information into the system.
(2) Border Policing
Assistant Commissioner Strydom, assisted by Director van der Westhuizen, suggested that an inadequate border control system costs this country billions of rand every year. There is, he said, a long way to go. On the other hand, much has been done since the security branch "counter-insurgency units" were rendered obsolete by the new democratic order. Since 1995 a more coordinated inter-departmental strategy has been employed, with Home Affairs, the SAPS, the SANDF, SARS, the Department of Trade and Industry and Customs and Excise all working together more closely in tackling cross-border crime.
The main function of the SAPS has been to track cross-border crime and the movement of illegal goods. Despite the greater attempts at inter-departmental cooperation, the problem of lack of coordination still has to be fully met. The National Inter-departmental Strategy (NIDS) has partly remedied this, but problems still remain. It currently has fifteen projects underway, tracking smuggling of drugs, firearms, vehicles etc. Shortages of personnel and adequate technology remain the most fundamental problem in creating truly effective border policing. Technology such as X-Ray scanners and new border vehicles would be of some help. Other main challenges to be met are deficiencies in tracking the identity of those involved, corruption within the system and a poorly resourced South African National Defence Force. The commissioner concludes that some successes have been achieved, but that the above problems (particularly lack of coordination on the ground) mean that they remain the exception rather than the rule.
Fivaz agreed and suggested that NIDS needs to sit down and get everyone to work together.
The Chairperson, Mr E George, commented that this has already been arranged.
(3) Taxi violence
Commissioner Harris, assisted by Director Toms, defined taxi violence as a conflict between or within two organised taxi groups for control of business (for example, the control of routes) for financial gain. As regards the extent of the problem, he states that the number of taxis in the RSA has increased by 20 000 to 140 000 since last year. This has increased the number of recorded incidents (from 333 in 1998 to 373 in 1999, a 12% increase). The nature of the problem not only involves disputes between rival taxi companies, but also between owners and drivers (as well as between mini-taxi owners and bus companies). The justice system, he said, is undermined by intimidation of witnesses and prosecutors (particularly in the Northern Province). Evidence is often removed from the crime scene, making convictions doubly difficult. The Commissioner also said that "unethical lawyers" representing taxi-operators make matters worse. The problem cannot be tackled adequately until the new National Land Transport Bill is passed. This, he said, will not happen until at least June 2000. As regards the SAPS, they need to be more proactive (setting up of road blocks; search and seizure of weapons) and reactive (getting more arrests, prosecutions and convictions).
He concluded that taxi violence is here to stay, but that with mutual cooperation we can get rid of the problem.
General questions and comments
The Chairperson (George) suggested that this was a contradictory conclusion and that the commissioner should not have said that the problem is here to stay.
One member then asked why racism remained prevalent in the intelligence service, and whether or not the commissioners believed enough was being done to promote affirmative action (both race and gender)? Commissioner Fivaz replied that, so far as he was aware, there was no more racism in intelligence than exists anywhere else in South African society. He also pointed out that much is being done in terms of affirmative action, and that two new women were about to be appointed to senior positions (at Director General level). As regards racism, Fivaz said that racism is not tolerated anywhere in the police service. Lastly, he said that it is not always possible to remove people instantly, and that affirmative action takes time.
General Viljoen asked why prisoners were not being tapped, given that they are often a valuable source of intelligence information. Fivaz replied that it was unconstitutional to tap anyone without a judge's permission, and that judges would only grant this permission if tapping related to specific allegations of criminal conduct.
One member asked how much the reforms in the intelligence service would cost, and if greater details could be given. Commissioner Fivaz replied that a meeting with the committee specifically discussing budgetary concerns had taken place last week. If questions concerning the crime intelligence budget remain, then further breakdowns may be given.
In relation to border policing, one member asked whether all South Africa's borders are being policed. The commissioner dealing with border policing issues said that this depends on whether you are talking about border posts or the RSA border generally. Border posts are manned, but much of South Africa's borderlines remain unpatrolled due to lack of personnel and resources in the SANDF. He also replied that acquiring the necessary resources to police the borders more comprehensively would be very expensive (particularly purchasing resources like border patrol aircraft). Present budetary constraints do not allow this. He asked the committee to consider the cost of present police operations (eg, Operation Good Hope R36 milllion per annum; The All Africa Games, over R7 million; the general election, R102 million per annum).
As regards taxi violence, one member asked the commissioners why there had been a recent upsurge in the problem in spite of the resources being ploughed into the area. Commissioner Fivaz replied that it could be due to problems in Namibia.
TAXI VIOLENCE: PRESENTATION TO THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY
The purpose of this briefing is to inform you on the current picture and major security issues relating to the fragile unity process of the taxi industry.
The emphasis will be on the nature and extent of the problems and challenges facing the Taxi Violence Investigation Units (TVIU) and the Special Presidential Taxi Task Team (SPTTT), as well as preventative measures that are in place.
Over the past few years the SAPS, and especially the Taxi Violence Investigation Unit and the SPTFF, have prioritised taxi violence as one of the most burning issues in South Africa, as taxi violence should not be exempted from the general trend of violence in this country.
When one looks at violence, three important features are prominent:
- Through violence, individuals and groups succeed in obtaining material goods, expanding economic power and securing the protection of their properties
- Violence almost always occurs when the economic territorial space of people is threatened by overcrowding or invaded by other individuals or groups.
- Weapons feature prominently in the perpetration of violence.
All three these aspects are prevalent in taxi violence.
Taxi violence can further be defined as:
The conflict between or within taxi associations, with the exclusive aim to promote one or both of an association's primary goals, namely:
- Financial gain and
- control over routes and/or taxi ranks (expansion of power base)
The deregulation of the taxi industry during 1974 brought the following problems to the industry:
- influx of permits
- over traded routes
- lack of subsidy
- no proper fare structure
- unroadworthy vehicles
- pirate taxis and
- conflict, violence and mafia-type assassinations
If one considers that an estimated 120 000 to 140 000 taxis operate in South Africa, it is clear why there has been an increase in taxi conflict and violence, during the first seven months of 1999. A provincial breakdown for the periods 1 January 1998 to 31 July 1998 and 1 January 1999 to 31 July 1999, will be provided with the presentation.
If one analyses these statistics, it is important to take note that the following crimes are included:
- Attempted murder
- Malicious damage to property
- Pointing of firearms Armed robbery Public violence
The provinces that were mostly affected by conflict and violence during the said periods are:
- Gauteng (Soshanguve)
The reasons for the violence were the conflict between SALLDTA and FBLLDTA regarding routes and ranks, and most recently, about the implementation of the "commuter card" by SALLDTA.
- Eastern Cape (East London, Umtata and King Williams Town)
The conflict was eminent between UNCEDO and BATA, especially in the Umtata/ King Williams Town area because members of both associations, even management members, cross-defected, thus losing a foothold in the wealth of that particular association, especially when outvoted.
- Western Cape (Cape Town and surrounding areas)
Here the violence boils down to the conflict between CODETTA and CATA over routes, ranks and the issuing of permits.
Conflict and violence also occurred in all six remaining provinces but, the intensity was not as severe as in the said provinces.
3. NATURE AND EXTENT OF PROBLEMS
The Taxi Violence Investigation Units and the Special Presidential Taxi Task Team do everything within their respective mandates to curb taxi violence.
The main objectives of the TVI Units are:
- To ensure the effective prevention of taxi violence-related crimes.
- To ensure the effective investigation of taxi violence-related crimes.
- To create a safe environment where the community can commute freely, without fear or restriction, when making use of taxis are not public transport, it is privatised public transport in South Africa.
The main objective of the SPTTT is to focus on the hierarchy of the taxi mafia.
During 1998, 289 suspects were arrested by the TVIU for crimes ranging from murder to assault, while the SPTTT arrested 33 of the 117 squad members identified since the establishment of the SPTTT on 17/18 February 1997. The sentences some of these culprits received range from 6 months to life imprisonment.
Despite all these successes, taxi violence still forms part of our daily lives. One reason being that there are many unemployed former members of the SAPS, SANDF, MK and APLA who are well trained and will do anything to generate an income. The taxi associations recruit these persons as hit squad members and reward them for hits done. These rewards vary from R5 000-00 to R150 000-00, depending on the targets they have to assassinate.
Therefore, if a member of a hit squad has been arrested, the person at a taxi association responsible for the recruitment and organisation of squad members, only recruits a new member for this squad from the said group and the squad continues with its activities.
Because squad members are afraid to be identified if they operate only in one area, for instance Soshanguve, they prefer to do hits in other areas such as KwaZulu-Natal or the Northern Province. After they will immediately leave the area and return to their place of abode.
The following trends also remain security concerns as they continue to contribute to instability and violence in the taxi industry:
- Tension between minibus taxis and alternative transport (especially buses): Rising intolerance against alternative forms of public transport, especially transport by buses, bakkies and private minibuses (e.g. schools, churches) has manifested. To ensure a sustained income, many taxi associations demand that bus services be limited or even terminated. There is an increasing trend of passengers to use buses because it is cheaper and safer. The nature of violence between the taxis industry and alternative transport include a few shooting incidents, stoning of buses, burning of vehicles, off-loading of passengers and taxi drivers and threatening both commuters and drivers of the alternative means of transport.
- Resistance: Growing resistance from within the taxi industry against exploitation, mismanagement of funds, violence and lawlessness. Taxi drivers are starting to organise themselves to act against illegal operators. Intraorganisational tension also continues due to personality clashes and dissatisfaction with decisions made by executive members.
- Attacks: While attacks were mostly target-orientated, which caused more fatalities, drive-by shootings still occurred during which innocent passengers were killed or injured.
- Intimidation: Witnesses, prosecutors and even accused are intimidated not
to testify or to withdraw cases. In the Northern Province a prosecutor withdrew from a case because the accused threatened him.
- Corruption: Public servants from different state departments, e.g. SAPS, SANDF, DOT, Justice, Correctional Services who are involved in the taxi industry, is a reason why the legitimate involvement of the departments is doubted by the taxi industry.
Taxi associations in the Western Cape have already started with their own justice system (Jungle Justice) at taxi ranks in Nyanga and Gugulethu to stop crime.
- Formalising and regulation processes: These processes are regarded as threats, as they are perceived as a government strategy to erode the traditional power bases of the taxi associations. It is a reality that the clamping down on illegal operations by means of an effectively enforcement programme will cause financial loss to those who are not prepared to operate within a formalised environment. Such financial loss will, however, change the nature and modus operandi of the taxi conflict on lower levels. Similarly, this may lead to intensified violence in an attempt to derail the process.
During the investigation of taxi violence crimes, the following problems are experienced by the investigating officers:
- The postponement of cases in court for up to 3 years. During this time witnesses are intimidated or simply disappear.
- The disturbance of crime scenes by onlookers or members of squads who
instruct certain loyal persons to remove evidence, such as cartridges, and other corpus delicti from the crime scene.
- SAPS members are intimidated to remove evidence from crime scenes.
- The witness protection programme is ineffective because, especially in rural areas, witnesses refuse to leave their homes to be relocated in an unknown area for an indefinite period. They are also afraid of losing their work and fear for the safety of their families who are subjected to severe intimidation and are even murdered.
- Unethical handling of cases by legal representatives and their illegal involvement with taxi associations.
- Taxi associations not cooperating when mediators convene a meeting in order to solve conflict between them. In certain circumstances only one association attends such a meeting or both decide not to attend.
- Unwillingness to make statements of occurrences, identify perpetrators and participate in court proceedings due to intimidation.
The challenges to bring taxi violence to an end lies in the following three pillars, despite all the problems that have been experienced by the Department of Transport (DOT):
- Fundamental restructuring of the industry
- Consolidation of the unity process
- Effective and uniform implementation of the new regulating framework.
4.2. FUNDAMENTAL RESTRUCTURING OF THE INDUSTRY
In the quest to establish a sustainable and integrated transport system, we are presently experiencing a phase in which the balance of forces still favours the State, but to a limited extent. It is, however, of critical significance that key actions be undertaken by the Government to tilt the balance further and ensure an effective intervention strategy. Such an intervention strategy can only be possibility if provinces are able to develop the necessary capacity to implement the process in the future.
The constitution of the South African Taxi Council (SATACO) has brought together all major operatives in the industry and this is a clear sign of the determination from within the industry to move towards and to ensure a more formalised and regulated environment.
The Minister of Transport, in conjunction with MINCOM, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SATACO which effectively lays the foundation for cooperation and fast tracking of a number of processes within the industry. This process has not been without its problems and complications. The usual taxi politics found fertile ground in the gaps that have been created by the reluctance of certain parties to endorse and thus recognise SATACO as a legitimate structure representing the industry.
The establishment of SATACO indicates a very important development in the history of the taxi industry. For the very first time in history all those involved across association lines came together to amalgamate into SATACO. This unity has been brought about by, among others, a desire to move towards formalised operations and the belief in the Government's sincerity in its undertaking to recognise the industry and support its endeavours to formalise itself by establishing adequate regulatory framework and support structures. Those involved have adopted a wait-and-see attitude and have cautiously committed themselves to SATACO, in the hope that the promise for support towards economic development and the renewal of the taxi fleet will deliver results. Such an attitude is also based on the realisation that the operations of taxis are no longer sustainable as vehicle prices are unaffordable and continue to soar, and the taxis are now only two years away from their fall economic life.
SATACO represents a fundamental shift in the balance of forces within the taxi industry against the backdrop of a traditional power base, previously resting with certain "mother bodies". This new power base represents an opportunity to harness the unity initiatives and through SATACO, commit the industry to a programme of formalising and regulating the industry.
The attitude of Government at all levels must acknowledge this reality and strive to harness the unity initiatives. Of critical significance are the provinces abilities to align their respective formalisation processes to the SATACO process. The SATACO Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) provide solid platforms for provinces progression.
4.3. CONSOLIDATION OF THE UNITY PROCESS
An implementation strategy developed by the lmplementation Working Group of the Department of Transport, proposes a framework for an integrated plan to enhance the measures and steps which are needed to expedite the formalisation process and combat taxi violence, through co-ordinated partnership with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community. A critical pillar to such a strategy is a successful institution formalisation programme both at local and provincial level. The promulgation and adoption of the standard constitution and code of conduct has to be expedited. Such expediting must result in primary associations having elections in terms of the standard constitution, and provincial council elected through a democratic process, of which the Registrar will be a custodian.
The key components to securing the process and salvage the unity initiative are:
- The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding which articulates the conditions on which the Government recognises the industry, and further commits the same to a programme of restructuring itself into a business entity governed by tile relevant laws of the country and contributing to the tax base.
- The promulgation and adoption of the Standard Constitution by primary associations and having elections in terms of the same.
- The establishment of provincial councils that are properly grounded and elected though a transparent and democratic process.
- Consolidation of existing taxi co-operatives and harmonisation of guidelines for the establishment of the same.
4.4. EFFECTIVE AND UNIFORM IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW REGULATING FRAMEWORK
Peace within the taxi industry relies on the full implementation of the National Land Transport Bill. The fact that there is no National Bill but only provincial legislation that controls the functions of the taxi industry, brings about uncertainty and conflict. The appointment of registrars in certain provinces, according to the prescriptions of the provincial legislation, creates conditions for conflict because some of these registrars own taxis and issue permits first for their taxis and then to other applicants. If the National Land Transport Bill had been implemented, the taxi industry would be policed with an iron fist. At the moment it is envisaged that the Land Transport Bill
will only be approved by Parliament during April 2000.
One of the key elements of the new legislation will be the recapitalisation of the taxi industry.
Because of the reality that the taxi fleet in the country is two years away from its full economic life and that new vehicles on the market are unaffordable, the need to renew the taxi fleet and to create an opportunity for a cheaper and purpose-built vehicle was identified. Through co-operation between the Departments of Transport, Minerals & Energy, Trade and Industry and Finance, a project team was established to manage this process. The end product of such a project will be the introduction of a new purpose-built vehicle that is diesel-powered and has larger seating capacity than the current vehicles. Such capacity will be split between an 18 seater and a 35 seater. Once again, this movement indicates another fundamental shift that seeks to narrow the gap between the bus- and taxi mode and is intended to balance the modal economics as dictated by the customer demands and flows. This process will favour the taxi industry in the future, but it is foreseen that problems will arise.
These include opportunities for corruption (favouritism) in the allocation of permits, an increase in unemployment because the replacement vehicles will have a larger capacity than the taxi and less drivers will be employed, which in turn may lead to illegal taxi operations by those affected. The policy to only subsidise the most effective transport sector in a specific area, may also lead to conflict between different sectors of the transport industry.
The recapitalisation process also includes the implementation of a "commuter card" which replaces the cash payment to the driver. Despite the fact that this system has not been implemented by the Department of Transport, a private company, in conjunction with SALLDTA, implemented this card system in the Soshanguve/ Mabopane (Pretoria) area without consulting other associations such as FELLDTA.
This led to a violent conflict between these two associations which resulted in the killing of eight people.
The South African Police Service must see to it that the following challenges are met:
To create and establish more credibility of the SAPS, especially of the TVIU by the community.
To provide unlimited and unbiased investigative strategies, a will to bring perpetrators to book, and prompt and effective handling of scenes of taxi violence.
To endeavour to pro- and reactively reduce the causes of taxi violence and to create a safe environment in winch the community can freely commute without fear of restriction when using transport facilities in South Africa.
Furthermore it is also envisaged that, through community structures, an alliance be formed in order to eradicate all forms of violence in the taxi industry.
5. PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
In order to prevent and detect taxi violence in a structured and co-ordinated manner, investigation officers are involved in:
- Proactive policing such as roadblocks, search and seizure operations at taxi ranks.
- Reactive policing, such as the arrests and successful prosecution of perpetrators.
- The maintaining of a well-structured informer system.
- The appointment of conflict mediators in each province in conjunction with the Department of Transport.
We must realise that the taxi industry is here to stay and violence and conflict will always be part of the lives of every South African citizen, despite new measures that have been implemented. It is therefore imperative that the transformation process of the taxi industry, which includes the National Land Transport Bill, is finalized without delay.
It is important to note that, in order to effectively police the Act, clear measures will have to be put into place, indicating precisely who will be responsible for its implementation.
The South African Police Service cannot quell the violence in the taxi industry on its own. We need the assistance of other government and non-governmental structures.
Through mutual co-operation we can bring this problem to an end.
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