Taxi operators bring streets to standstill

Sipho Masombuka

TRAFFIC piled up for hours on some of Johannesburg's major roads with reports of intimidation as taxi operators made their way to a march in Pretoria yesterday.

About 2000 drivers joined the march on the Department of Transport's headquarters in the Tshwane CBD.

At the heart of the National Taxi Alliance's grievances is the government's alleged failure to issue taxi operating licences and not exempting them from e-tolls, leaving them with monthly bills of up to R42 000.

As an interim measure, the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) yesterday said taxi associations had been asked to provide a list of their vehicles to be loaded on the system for exemption.

"Those that have been billed already will receive a credit note and will not be held liable for the outstanding amounts. This is the first phase of helping to resolve the problem," said Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona.

Mona said once operators received their operating licences, they would be expected to submit these to Sanral for permanent exemption.

The alliance also slammed the taxi recapitalisation programme, saying the R67000 they received per taxi scrapped was not enough to put down a deposit for the minibuses the government wanted. General secretary Alpheus Mlalazi said they want the allowance to be raised to R150 000.

"Before the recapitalisation programme, we bought (minibus) taxis for R142000. Now it costs between R350000 and R600000. Banks want R100000 deposit," he said.

Mlalazi said they also wanted the state to subsidise the industry, as was the case with buses and trains, saying they transported more people than any other sector.

The alliance gave Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters two weeks to respond or face the industry's wrath.

About 100 minibus taxis also disrupted traffic along Grayston North and the N1 in Rivonia up to Allendale. Non-marching drivers were allegedly stopped, their passengers forced out and drivers forced to join the march.

Johannesburg metro police spokesman Superintendent Wayne Minnaar confirmed incidences of intimidation in Allendale.