Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula addresses taxi associations in Tshwane on Monday, 22 June. Photo: @MbalulaFikile / Twitter

Watch: Mbalula forced to retreat as taxi tempers flare [video]

Fikile Mbalula attempted to calm tensions during the taxi strike, but only achieved the opposite.

Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula addresses taxi associations in Tshwane on Monday, 22 June. Photo: @MbalulaFikile / Twitter

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s engagement with protesting taxi drivers in Soshanguve turn out to be a brief one, after he had to be hurled away, fearing violence.

The South Africa National Taxi Council (Santaco) embarked on a total shutdown of services in Gauteng on Monday, after rejecting the COVID-19 relief fund offered by government.

Tempers flare in Tshwane 

He was summoned to listen to the taxi industry’s concerns, after the sector had suffered a significant loss in revenue brought on by the ongoing lockdown, as well the resulting social-distancing requirements which have forced public transport to operate at a portion of its usual capacity.

The protests were not altogether peaceful, with police and members of the military roped in to control the situation.

Mbalula arrived shortly after rubber bullets had been fired to disperse a crowd that had gathered to sing and chant.

His efforts at calming the protestors proved to have the opposite effect, as he had to be whisked away amid fears for his safety.

Watch Fikile Mbalula rushed away from protesting crowd in video below: 

Frosty relations between taxi unions and transport minister

The taxi strike forged ahead, following Mbalula’s announcement on Friday that government had offered Santaco over R1bn in relief funds, a figure the association rejected.

Santaco is demanding government hands out R20 000 relief for each taxi, amid fears that vehicles stand to be repossessed as many operators have struggled to meet repayments since the lockdown.

Government, on the other hand, is offering R5 000 per taxi and is looking to have the sector formalised.

“Increasing the amount that is available is simply not an option on the table. I wish to repeat, the door is still open for creative ideas to maximise value for this limited benefit for all operators in the industry,” Mbalula said over the weekend.

Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Transport

On Monday, the transport minister condemned the manner in which the protesters had gone about voicing their concerns.

“You can’t protest issues that were raised by closing the roads. It’s fine to protest if you are unhappy about something but you have no right to close the roads.”

Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Transport