Taxi strike leaves many stranded

Commuters were left stranded on Monday.

On Monday September 18 commuters around Cape Town were stranded when taxi associations called a strike.

Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (CODETA), Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and the Retreat Taxi Association (RTA) downed tools because of frustration over the upcoming South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) elections and new taxi laws.

According to the associations, elections for a new regional executive were supposed to have been held in March, but had still not taken placeand they were not happy with the current Santaco executive leadership.

CodetaspokespersonAndile Khanyi said the associations had, on numerous occasions, approached Western Cape Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant for guidance in creating criteria and policies for the taxi industry but not much had come of their concerns.

The strike was, however, suspended on Monday afternoon after a meeting was held with Mr Grant, representatives of Santaco and a taxi task team.

But by then two buses had been destroyed and 52 people injured. Things were calm in Wynberg and Retreat though, with a strong railway police presence.

Basil Nagel, former chairperson of the Retreat Taxi Association and association member, said the strike and any event that led to disharmony in the taxi industry was, and would always be the end result of poor communication, failed transport strategy and factors relating to poor working relationships between local associations, taxi bodies and government.

“We can continue to pretend that we have a healthy transport strategy in place or we can face facts and come to a conclusion that public transport does not have a chance without inclusion and addressing the taxi industry’s concerns,” said Mr Nagel.

At the meeting it was agreed to mediation over how the taxi drivers’ new leadership would be elected and they were urged to return to work immediately, and to encourage calm on the streets as the evening commute approached.

Mr Grant said: “My department and I are committed to ensuring that a united minibus taxi industry is maintained in the Western Cape, with a democratically elected leadership. It is therefore concerning to me that internal divisions are threatening the stability of the minibus-taxi industry and with it, the means of transport of many citizens in our province.”

He added that violent conflict and criminal acts would not be tolerated and that he hoped the mediation process would be respected.

“The Western Cape Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the violence and destruction of property which so often accompanies strike action of this nature.

“I further appealed to industry leaders to call for calm and level heads from their members, and reassert their commitment to providing safe and reliable public transport to the many commuters who rely on minibus taxis as their primary mode of transport,” Mr Grant said.