Commuters stranded as taxi drivers march

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KwaZulu-Natal - Durban and Pietermaritzburg taxi commuters were stranded on Wednesday when taxis belonging to the KZN Transport Alliance stopped operating so that drivers and owners could march on the licensing board office and provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg.

There was a mixed reaction to the protest from local business on the economic impact of the strike.

In Durban some taxis, whose operators were not members of the alliance, continued to operate.

The marchers handed over a memorandum demanding:

* the closure of the licensing board and taxi register;

* the government stop its plan to do away with 14-seater Siyaya taxis;

* the government subsidise the taxi industry; and

* the police set up a special task team to investigate taxi violence in the province.

During the protest insults were hurled at government officials, accusing them of plotting to shut down the taxi industry.

Police monitored the Mariannhill Toll Plaza after taxi operators threatened to disrupt traffic flow through the toll plaza. However, there were no disruptions.

In Pietermaritzburg several streets were gridlocked but, again, there was no violence.

Zwelibombu primary school principal Themba Bango said at least three of the school’s 20 teachers did not arrive for work. They travelled from uMlazi and KwaMakhutha south of Durban.

Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew Layman said the impact was not widespread.

“Overall it is not good for business if people can’t get to work,” he said.

Commuter Siyabonga Mngadi said he waited an hour at the Ntuzuma taxi rank.

“I woke up at 4am to get transport to work. I have been standing in the queue for nearly an hour and there is no sign of taxis.”

Another commuter from Ntuzuma, north of Durban, said he took a bus to work which was “very full” but he was on time.

An Inanda resident said he was two hours late for work

“No work, no pay. I had to get to work,” he said.

Riverdene secondary school pupil, Musawenkosi Hlongwa, said his neighbour gave him a lift to school in Newlands West because there were no taxis in Ntuzuma.

“I was 30 minutes late for school. I may have to sleep over at a friend’s place because there are no taxis to take us home.”

Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the department would respond to the taxi operators’ demands in two weeks.

He said there was a plan to delay the phasing out of the Siyaya taxis. A provincial conference on the taxi violence was also planned. - The Mercury


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