21 Jun 2017, Cape Town: More chaos expected in July, after the country’s taxi bosses announced plans for a bigger and more coordinated strike than the one which brought Johannesburg to its knees last week.
Chief Operating Officer for the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco), Thulani Qwabe, issued a stern warning to those who, it feels, continue to exploit the industry. Among those is Santaco’s next target, the Department of Transport, which it accuses of limiting the industry’s growth.
Sifiso Shangase, provincial manager for Santaco in KwaZulu-Natal, told SA Breaking News (SABN) the taxi industry has “been ripped off as consumers” for a long time now and that they believe that the time has come to engage the entities that have been exploiting them.
Shangase says that “there’s a comprehensive programme that the leadership has come up with” to address the institutions the industry feels has been exploiting them.
On Wednesday, May 31, the industry in KZN targeted the Toyota manufacturing plant in Prospecton, Durban, causing heavy traffic delays and leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
Toyota was targeted, as many operators have been forced to purchase Toyota Quantums, and operators complained about the prohibitive costs of the vehicles. Operators also said that they had been led to believe that costs would come down once manufacturing was done locally, but that was not the case.
Striking taxi drivers blocked off a number of routes around the city, resulting in heavy traffic congestion. A memorandum was then handed over to Toyota, requesting a meeting with the car manufacturer.
On Thursday, June 15, taxi drivers started blocking off main routes leading in to the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria in the early hours of the morning, which resulted in not only stranding taxi-using commuters, but also led to schools having to close as parents were unable to get their children to school due to heavy traffic and blocked roads.
It also resulted in a number of people not being able to get to work at all.
A march was arranged on the South African Taxi Finance offices in Midrand, where another memorandum was handed over. Drivers protested what they called an exploitative interest rate of 28%, and high monthly premiums which were becoming un-affordable.
It was after this particular protest action, where the drivers and media were addressed by the Santaco leadership, that Santaco announced the date for the next possible strike.
Drivers were also presented with SA Taxi Finance’s proposal of dropping the interest rate from 28% to 25%. A number of drivers were still not happy with the 3% cut, and were urged by the Santaco leadership to go away and discuss counter proposals they could then present to SA Taxi Finance.
Bongani Nzuza, regional chairperson of Santaco’s Ningizimu 1 region, told SABN that the industry wanted to show the country how they were being exploited.
"The banks are charging us sky-high interest rates… if you look at the insurance premiums that we are paying… we are paying the same as 60-seaters and we are only loading 15 people…we wanted the country to see the exploitation we are experiencing," he said.
The next date mentioned is July 12, which will focus on the department of transport and its moratorium on issuing new operating licenses.
Shangase says that in KZN however, the industry and the department enjoy a very good relationship and that the department has lifted the moratorium in that province.
The picture that appears to be emerging from these actions is that the industry has a programme, in which each strike targets a particular sector they feel is exploiting them.
If this indeed is the case, then the country can prepare for more strike action, as insurance companies, who have also been mentioned as being exploitative, are yet to be the focus of any action.
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