“Your biggest mistake was not voting for the ANC to take over this municipality. This municipality is under the administration of the DA. So, the next time you vote, remember to vote for the ANC, vote right so we can attend to such matters [the scourge of drugs].”
These were the words uttered by President Cyril Ramaphosa who was addressing taxi operators and the Tshwane community in the capital city on Friday afternoon.
The president’s visit began in Soshanguve – a township north of Pretoria – at the residence of slain taxi driver Jabulani Baloyi whose life was cut short after he was gunned down, allegedly by a drug dealer in the Pretoria CBD last month.
Violent protests erupted in the Pretoria inner city as a result of Baloyi’s death. Taxi operators went on the rampage to forcefully remove drug dealers and addicts from the inner city.
In the process foreigners were targeted, as locals claimed they were responsible for the city’s drug problem.
“While visiting Baloyi’s family they [the family] expressed to us how on the day he was killed there was a delay in the arrival of emergency services and law enforcement and that when law enforcement finally arrived on the scene they said it was not their jurisdiction,” Ramaphosa told the crowd.
“The bereaved family has asked us to look very closely at this issue and fix it and we will take it up.”
He segued into telling the community that they made a grave mistake by electing the DA into power because the ANC would have addressed such concerns expeditiously.
He added: “As we met with the family we told them that ... Jabu has now become a symbol of something very serious: of fighting against drugs and ridding not only the city of Tshwane but the country in its entirety of drugs, including nyaope.”
A presidential deadline
Among the crowd was Grotie Sithole, who introduced himself to City Press as Pretoria United Long Distance Taxi Association public relations officer.
Grotie Sithole says they have given the president 21 days to respond to their cries. Picture: Palesa Dlamini
Sithole warned that the president’s time for action was limited.
“The president was here today and he spoke, but if he does not act as the leader of the country for the thing we as taxi drivers are fighting against then I cannot say how this will go,” he said.
“We have given him 21 days to tell us what is happening in terms of the death of one of our own and how he will take action against the police involved in this.”
With his fellow taxi operators surrounding him cheering him on, he added: “Jabu died doing the job of the police. So, something must be done. We have footage of the police vehicles that have been doing illegal things here. We do not know their faces but we know the police cars.”
Ramaphosa corroborated Sithole’s claim and said he had been informed of law enforcement officials working with drug peddlers in the area.
“Some of our police are partaking in illegal acts. Not all of them but some.”
On the day, the president received a memorandum from the taxi operators in the area detailing some of the major hot spots for drugs. It included Sunnyside, Capital Park, Struben and Du Toit streets and Marabastad, which was as recognised as being “right at the centre of everything.”
The taxi driver who cared
But once Ramaphosa had moved on, the community members were left to celebrate Baloyi.
Lesego Ramusandiwa, born and bred in Pretoria, told City Press how she was “practically brought up by Jabu”.
Lesego Ramusandiwa was a close friend of slain taxi operator Jabulani Baloyi. Picture: Palesa Dlamini
“The president spoke to us but it is not like this was the first time the issue of drug dealing by foreigners has ever been brought up by communities. Actions speak louder than words and so far all the president has done is talk,” she said.
The same sentiment were expressed by Sithole.
“Jabu’s death has had a huge impact on the community. He watched me grow up and took care of me. Now he is gone because the police could not do their job. He was doing it for them,” said Ramusandiwa.
Taxi operators remember one of their own, Jabulani Baloyi. Picture: Palesa Dlamini
“It is so sad how nyaope has become like some sort of snack that people just walk around openly smoking. People just walk right past the police smoking it and I can say that from what I have seen it is mostly sold by foreigners.”
An emotional Ramusandiwa said: “Jabu was one of the friendliest people you could ever meet. He accepted everyone. He would sit and talk to the ‘nyaope boys’ asking them what he could do to help them stop. He never gave up on them.
“It is just painful that in the end he died because he cared enough.”