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Durban - Toll cashiers near Ladysmith could find themselves counting five cent coins from every minibus taxi passing through the plaza on Wednesday.
This would form part of a protest by the KwaZulu-Natal taxi industry against the government's taxi recapitalisation programme, spokesmen said on Tuesday.
KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance chairman Eugene Hadebe said the five cent protest would be held at the Tugela toll plaza on the N3 near Ladysmith.
He urged taxi drivers to stock up on five cent coins to pay their toll fees.
Taxi owners would also march on KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize’s office to hand over a memorandum of grievances.
They were also dissatisfied with the provincial transport department's administration and issuing of operating licences.
Another grievance was the government’s decision to recognise the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) as the sole representative of the taxi industry.
Hadebe told a meeting of various taxi alliances at Durban’s Curries Fountain stadium that permission had been granted for the march in Pietermaritzburg. He said Santaco did not represent his association or others.
Concerned Taxi Operators chairman Thami Ngcongo said: “They are the only people being recognised by government. They are not leading us. They are taking decisions without our consent.”
Earlier on Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal transport spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said the provincial government had, as part of an agreement with Santaco, decided to approach the national government in an attempt to get it to delay the taxi recapitalisation programme in the province.
Ncalane said this had been agreed at a meeting between the provincial department and Santaco.
“We decided that we needed to approach the national department of transport to consider the moratorium of implementing the taxi recapitalisation programme (TRP), so that we can engage with taxi operators.”
The R7.7 billion TRP was first announced in 1999 and came into effect in October 2006. It was intended to replace the country's ageing minibus taxi fleet with safe, modern vehicles.
In terms of the TRP, taxi owners would each be paid R50,000 to have a vehicle scrapped. The owner could then use this money to exit the industry, or as a deposit on a newer, safer vehicle.
Currently the amount paid is R63,100 per taxi.
The TRP was supposed to be introduced in KwaZulu-Natal in September.
Ncalane said the transport department would ask for an extension of six months to hold talks with taxi operators.
He dismissed taxi operators' claims that the government wanted to scrap all Siyaya taxis.
Siyaya minibus taxis, originally known as Hi-Aces, were built by Toyota SA until the end of 2007.
“When government compensates taxi operators they cannot use that money to buy a vehicle that was bought in 2006 and the years before,” Ncalane said.
“There are certain provisions in the National Transport Act that talk about compliance of vehicles to be deemed roadworthy.”
He said that often the delays in issuing operating licences came about as a result of taxi owners not providing correct documentation, or obtaining the necessary municipal approval for the route they would be operating.
Ncalane said there was no need for taxi operators to march on Wednesday as the department was in talks with Santaco.
However, later on Tuesday afternoon, he said the government was attempting to hold a meeting with the other taxi alliances.
It was not immediately clear how commuters would be affected. Hadebe and other Curries Fountain stadium speakers urged drivers not to stay away, but to rather take commuters to work before joining the protest march in Pietermaritzburg.
N3 Toll Concession spokesman Con Roux said it would have extra staff on duty to help count the coins. - Sapa