Taxi strike expected to leave thousands stranded

Image: TimesLIVE

Tens of thousands of Eastern Cape commuters are expected to be left stranded on Wednesday as taxi operators say they are going ahead with a one-day total shutdown of services.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said the decision could affect commuters throughout the province – both at taxi ranks for shorter commutes and for those planning long distance trips.

Two main bus services are also being suspended as a precautionary measure while certain matric trial exams have been moved to next week. Taxi operators have laid the blame at the doorstep of Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana, labelling her “arrogant” and saying she does not take the taxi industry seriously.

“Yes, it’s true. We are going to have a total shutdown,” Santaco regional chair Songezo Mpanda said.

“We are saying ‘enough’. “The MEC ignores our grievances, particularly on the issue of scholar transport and the money still outstanding. “We are being ill-treated.” Their grievances include:

● A struggle to obtain operating permits;

● Alleged harassment by traffic officers;

● Failure by the transport department to tag schoolchildren who use scholar transport for identification purposes;

● Fuel price increases, with operators unable to increase taxi fares; and

● Opposition to commuters hitchhiking.

Rising fuel prices were also of concern Santaco said. Department of transport spokesperson Unathi Binqose said on numerous occasions his department had sat down with Santaco leadership to discuss the challenges of constant fuel price hikes with respect to scholar transport.

“The allegations of arrogance and not taking the taxi industry seriously levelled against the MEC are unfortunate and unfair. Tikana is one of the most humble, fair and yet firm people around,” Binqose said.

Algoa Bus Company CEO Sicelo Duze said: “The strike is a taxi association strike.

“However, as a safety measure, buses will not be operating]. We will operate again on Thursday.”

Duze said taxi strikes were often violent and the company would rather avoid a situation where buses were burnt or commuters harmed.

Spectrum Alert CEO Chris King said the Integrated Public Transport System buses – which it operates – would not be ferrying commuters on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we have to suspend all our operations as a precautionary measure.

“We are mindful of the fact our commuters depend on our services but this is in the best interest of everyone,” he said.

The department has requested commuters to use alternative transport on Wednesday and to be on high alert.