MF Filane, a spokesperson for Mass Taxi Industry Protest Action Committee, confirmed on Friday the protest action would commence “very soon” and be supported by a massive number of taxi industry stakeholders.
Filane said the protest action was about radical economic empowerment and transformation and would comprise blockades rather than protest marches as an instrument to bring targeted companies to the negotiating table.
He said the duration of the protest action would depend on the response it received, but they could continue indefinitely. “We will target vehicle companies and financial and insurance institutions who are killing the taxi industry,” he said.
Filane said high taxi vehicle prices and the steep escalation in taxi vehicle prices was the biggest threat to the industry.
He said vehicle manufacturers imposed these high prices on the taxi industry and questioned the reluctance of these manufacturers to come to the table and discuss the price of vehicles with the industry.
“We have got no ownership of the taxi industry value chain. Whoever decides on the price of vehicles, we should also be involved. The banks are playing along and charging the industry (interest rates) 8 percent above the prime rate, despite operators having clean records and qualifying for prime less.
“Insurance companies are also ripping us off,” he said.
Filane blamed vehicle manufacturers, particularly Toyota, for the violence in the taxi industry. He said the high vehicle price caused fighting over lucrative taxi routes and money.
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Phillip Taaibosch, the president of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), said that he was unaware about any planned protest action by operators.
But Taaibosch said that if protest groups of this nature approached Santaco and wanted to share their sentiments about radical economic transformation, Santaco would be the first to say the taxi industry had been excluded from the economy.
“In the economy, as it is still projected today, the taxi industry is seen as the tree from which fruits can be ripped from, whether its the vehicle manufacturers or insurance companies,” he said.
Taaibosch said the taxi industry was paying exorbitant prices for vehicles, vehicle finance and insurance and “is being taken for a ride and needs to be taken seriously”.
“If taxi operators want to stand up on these issues, I’m convinced Santaco would be very sympathetic towards them and support that action,” he said.
Nico Vermeulen, the director of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, said any rolling mass action would have a negative impact on the cities and regions where this action took place and stressed there were alternatives to it. He said the alternative was for the taxi industry to sit down with the fuel, insurance and automotive companies and explore the possibility of “a win-win situation”.