Picture: Reuters.

Johannesburg - Senior executives from Toyota South Africa and taxi industry leaders will be meeting within the next week to discuss the complaints of taxi operators following Wednesday's blockade of the vehicle manufacturer’s plant in Prospecton in Durban by thousands of taxi vehicles.

The protest halted production at the plant.

MP Filtane, a spokesperson for Mass Taxi Industry Protest Action Committee, which organised the blockade to protest the taxi industry’s total exclusion from the industry’s value chain, confirmed on Wednesday that the protest at Toyota SA had been suspended and they would be meeting with TSAM’s senior management within the next week to discuss the complaints of taxi operators.

Filtane said that they had always indicated that the duration of the protest action would depend on the response from targeted entities.

Suben Moodley, the senior vice-president corporate services at Toyota, confirmed that almost 600 units of production were lost over two shifts at the plant because of the blockade.

“Toyota SA was informed about the planned march and advised staff not to come to work today (Wednesday). However, staff working the previous night’s shift were unable to exit the plant until the protest action was over. Our production division is evaluating the need for mitigation efforts,” he said.

Moodley was unable to quantify the cost to Toyota of the lost production.

He added that Toyota executives had received a memorandum from SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) representatives and it was currently being reviewed “to evaluate the requests”.

Moodley said Toyota would engage with Santaco executives once the memorandum had been evaluated.

"Bad trading practices"

A copy of the memorandum handed to Toyota executives by the protesters contains a list of demands, including that the company must stop actively supporting and encouraging extremely bad trading practices.

It said that through these transactions, the industry was “coerced” and manipulated, with the active participation of Toyota SA and SA Taxi, to enter into unaffordable transactions that led to the demise of small businesses and the destruction of thousands of hard working South African families.

“Toyota must take responsibility for the non-viable taxi deals which end up destroying the livelihood of taxi operations,” it said.

The memorandum also demanded that Toyota SA identify and finance 11 Toyota dealerships to purchase a significant stake in 11 dedicated taxi owned taxi centre dealerships that would be created countrywide for the sale of vehicles to taxi operators.

One taxi centre would be established in each of the provinces, with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng which would have two dealerships, with all 11 dealerships owned by the taxi industry.

The memorandum also demanded that Toyota SA must with immediate effect contribute “a royalty of R10 000” a taxi vehicle sold to the industry together with a retroactive payment of an “original small royalty since cessation to date” for various purposes outlined in the memorandum.

It said Toyota must also participate in the establishment and development of taxi industry owned financing activities.

Filtane said about 1800 taxi vehicles participated in Wednesday's protest.

Apart from a few skirmishes and “cursing and shouting” because of people trying to force themselves through the blockade, there were no physical confrontations during the protest, he said.

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