Gauteng taxi owners say they are optimistic that Monday’s transport shutdown will put pressure on government to listen to their demands. The majority of taxi operators in Gauteng have heeded the call for a total shutdown by the taxi organisation, Santaco.
On Friday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced COVID-19 relief funding of R1.1 billion for the taxi industry. Santaco says this is not sufficient.
This has left scores of commuters stranded in many townships in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Oupa Skhosana has been in the taxi industry for over 20 years. His two taxis have not been generating sufficient income for his family since March after the country went into lockdown. He is afraid he might even find it difficult to carry on with the business beyond lockdown, unless government provide them with sufficient funding.
“I cannot run the risk of running up and down, coming back and park and accumulate high mileage and repair. As I’m saying, there’s no business. That’s on the metre taxi site. On the minibus, at times, we park; at times, we work, maybe for two or three days (we) don’t work. That’s because of the loading capacity and because locally there’s no people going to work or coming back.”
The Menlyn Taxi Association, an affiliation of the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) in Pretoria says their taxis will continue to ferry commuters until the outcome of the negotiations with government on Tuesday.
The association is urging its members to exercise patience pending further announcements by government.
Prince Skosana, speaking on behalf of the Menlyn Taxi Association says, “Well, it’s not a different approach. A formal statement states clearly that the government and the NTA negotiations are continuing. And while they’re engaging robustly, there’s no need for you to take action because the Minister has confirmed clearly yesterday by saying you’re welcomed to engage robustly to maximize whatever value you have in the process of formalizing and unifying and improving the taxi industry.”
Meanwhile, the Tshwane Metro Police Department says it will not tolerate the intimidation of motorists by taxi drivers and operators, and will take necessary action if needs be.
In Soshanguve, police with the assistance of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had to use rubber bullets to disperse striking taxi drivers who had stopped motorists from entering and leaving the township.
The northern and western parts of the city were the most affected by the strike.
Tshwane Metro Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Isaac Mahamba says, “We had to use rubber bullets to disperse the unruly behaviour or unruly crowd here intimidating other motorists. That, as law enforcement, we are not going to allow. There’s no one that has been arrested, nor any injuries reported to us. As you can see now, traffic is flowing freely. We’ll remain on site until we are sure as TMPD, that everything is back to normal.”