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South Africa: At least three dead in minibus strike paralysing Cape Town

Burnt vehicle in the middle of the road in Cape Town   -  
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South Africa

Cape Town's public transport system has been paralysed by a minibus taxi strike that in a violent turn has seen three people killed, police said Monday.

Drivers of minibus taxis, the main mode of transport for millions of working-class South Africans, blocked multiple roads in a strike that began last Thursday as a result of clashes with city authorities.

The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) called for the action over a new municipal by-law that gives the city the power to impound vehicles over offences such as driving without a licence, not displaying registration plates or overloading.

Tensions boiled over after 15 minibuses were impounded on Tuesday.

Thousands of stranded commuters piled up at bus and taxi stations across the city on Thursday, with hundreds opting to walk home late into the night while others slept at the stations as incidents of violence erupted.

On Friday night, a police officer was shot and killed in a vehicle in a township 20 kilometres southeast of Cape Town while on patrol.

Police said they could not rule out the killing was linked to the strike, as it came while officers were "performing crime prevention patrols to quell taxi related incidents".

In an update on Monday, police said another person was "shot dead and three others injured after a motorist was pelted with stones" on the road leading to the city's airport.

Authorities later added that a third body -- that of a 28-year-old man who sustained multiple gunshot wounds in an attack "believed to be taxi related" -- was found nearby.

The airport road was eventually cleared in the afternoon. Its blockage had prompted the British High Commission to advise travellers to avoid driving to the airport fearing some might run into trouble.

SANTACO, who claim that 6,000 vehicles have been impounded since the beginning of the year, said they have been "left with no other option" due to "the frivolous impoundment operations run by government".

"It is clear that there has been a level of premeditation in the actions we've witnessed over the past few days," the local government said in a statement on Monday.

"There have also been clear attempts to target City staff and infrastructure" it said.

Numerous public buses and city vehicles have been set alight, city and transport authorities said.

Private cars have also been stoned, torched or shot at and some medical clinics have been forced to close or operate at reduced capacity.

Some shops have been looted with protestors making away with household appliances, clothing and liquor, police said adding five people were arrested for possession of suspected stolen property.

After failed negotiations at the weekend between SANTACO and the government, it announced the action would continue until Wednesday.

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