Taxi shutdown

Image via Twitter: Minister of Transport |Mr Fix

No taxi shutdown on Tuesday: Gauteng commuters rejoice

Taxis are back on the roads despite still having a bone to pick with minister Mbalula.

Taxi shutdown

Image via Twitter: Minister of Transport |Mr Fix

Despite rogue promises of a continued taxi shutdown on Tuesday 23 June, drivers have returned to work and the situation on Gauteng’s roads has returned to some semblance of normality.

This is in stark contrast to the events which unfolded on Monday, with Tshwane becoming a hive of tension following debilitating road blockades and running battles between law enforcement agencies and taxi operators.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), which orchestrated the strike, condemned acts of violence and intimidation perpetuated by some of its members. Spokesperson Thabiso Molelekwa said that while the industry was not satisfied with government relief efforts, taxi operations in Gauteng would return to normal pending further engagements with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

On Monday afternoon, Mbalula attempted to address striking taxi drivers in Soshanguve. The minister, who explained that the R1.1 billion offered as relief to the taxi industry was all that government could afford, was forced to retreat from the area amid burgeoning tensions. Mbalula was guided back to his vehicle with a heavy security presence as protesters hurled insults about government failing to support the industry.

Mbalula chased from Monday’s taxi shutdown

Addressing the media, Mbalula reiterated his commitment to formalising the taxi industry. Explaining that government’s coffers had already been stretched to the limit, Mbalula said that taxi associations needed to adjust their expectations to the reality of the grim economic climate. The transport minister added that Rand for Rand compensation — intended to offset all revenue losses incurred by the taxi industry as a result of the nationwide lockdown — was not feasible or reasonable. Mbalula condemned the acts of lawlessness which dominated protests in Soshanguve, saying:

“We condemn violent action by taxi operators we have witnessed today [Monday] in the strongest possible terms. While protest is a legal right, but this does not extend to violating the rights of others. Blockading roads and violating the rights of other road users is unacceptable.”

Molelekwa confirmed that further discussions with Mbalula were scheduled to take place on Wednesday 24 June.

Santaco argues that government has failed to allocate appropriate funding to the taxi industry, despite the minibuses being the country’s top transporters. Incensed operators argue that government should recognise the value added by the taxi industry and afford it the same reprieves as other embattles public transport sectors.

Taxi repossessions on the rise

Molelekwa recently raised another concern regarding government’s ‘insufficient’ relief package; the repossession rates of taxis and its impact on the industry as a whole.

Santaco claims that over the next eight months, more than 45% of all taxis would be repossessed by banks as a result of arrears. The taxi industry pleaded with Mbalula to address the threat of repossessions, with some stakeholders calling for a repayment moratorium.