Lulamile Ncapayi lives in Khayelitsha – a town on the outskirts of Cape Town. It’s a world of its own, with a population of 400,000. Most are African, with a sprinkling of coloured (or mixed-race) people and a handful of whites. It’s a vibrant home, which many came to from the Eastern Cape in search of work.

Lulamile worked on the railways as an administrator, but now drives a taxi. He – with his wife Noli (a nurse) – is bringing up their lovely little girl, Nikhanye.  

Lulamile worked on the railways as an administrator, but now drives a taxi. He – with his wife Noli (a nurse) – is bringing up their lovely little girl, Nikhanye.  He knows Kentish Town well, having come over to see London and joined our campaigns to get Keir Starmer elected as our MP. 

Lulamile at Keir’s election as MP in 2015

But money is tight and his taxi work got him into real trouble. 

Getting into Cape Town is difficult and can be expensive. The trains are infrequent and often disrupted. So Taxi Associations sprang up to take passengers into town. But they are controlled by gangs who can be extremely violent and guard their routes jealously. 

In July this year a fierce struggle erupted in July 2021 over one particular route – leading to more than 20 murders and 29 attempted murders.

 As Lulamile put it: the government has “absolutely no authority over the taxi industry.” But let him take up the story.

Caught in a Taxi War

 “When I travelled to Eastern Cape my home Province to bury a close cousin at the beginning of June, the violence was not really disrupting commuting services. It was two weeks later, upon my return, that I learned that the war had escalated – bringing instability across all forms of transport.

 As someone who is in an e-hailing (mini-cab) business, I took a decision to continue to operate. I thought that I will be vigilant and exercise safety precautions, as it was clearly risky. Compelled by factors around my finances, and because the month end was fast approaching, I needed to have some income, to cover some basic expenses. So I continued to pick up some Rider Requests.

 Lady luck wasn’t with me when a request came through and I messaged the Rider to agree on what I thought was a safer pick up point in a Shopping Centre with a Taxi Rank. We confirmed the pick up point. Upon my arrival, I waited a minute or two before she showed up with a 5yr old baby boy. She opens the door, lets the boy jump in first, and just before she gets in, I heard a knocking on my driver window accompanied by a greeting.

 Two guys with masks and caps on. Before I could reply I was ask which Taxi Association I’m operating under or belong to. My response was: “None. I’m picking up a family member. Why? What’s wrong?”

At this moment my passenger remains quiet, but doesn’t get into the car although her child is inside.

The two masked men proceeded to ask my passenger if she made a Request via any e-Hailing services. She feels she must speak the truth because if not, and they learn that she is lying, she will face the consequences. So she explains that she did come through an e-Hailing service.

They then took the child out of the vehicle, and at that moment I started the engine, hoping to get away. As I’m about to drive off, they pulled a pistol and cocked it.

I felt a shiver down my spine. I immediately surrendered myself. They confiscated my car and asking if I was trying to run away. With a dry voice I said no I was going to park close-by.

Now that I was caught, the pistol was withdrawn and my passenger disappeared.

I was taken to a nearby Taxi Rank Office, where I was told to pay a fine of R3000.00 (about £150) for operating when no Taxis are operating, and without their approval, as well as trying to evade their arrest.

I immediately acknowledged my wrong-doing and asked for forgiveness, and negotiated the fine to be reduced as I had only R1200.00 in my account. I showed them my account balance. They were happy with what I could withdraw: R1100. I got my car-keys back, drove home and slept.

It was really the luckiest escape. I am grateful to have been left unharmed as they can be really merciless and brutal.

A week after my lucky escape the violence had claimed more than 26 fatalities.

Today (Monday 02 August 2021) it is believed that the Taxi violence in the Western Cape has claimed more than 80 lives.

The intervention of Provincial and National Governments have been meeting the Taxi Associations, but they have yet to restore confidence among the travelling public.

They claim the violence is at an end, but we will have to wait and see.”