Taxi operators blockade streets in Johannesburg last month. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/ANA pictures
Shopping malls, some stand-alone retail stores and fuel depots and filling stations are to be targeted by the taxi industry in the next phases of its rolling mass protest action.

However, dates have not yet been set for these planned protests. Informed sources in the taxi industry aligned with the Mass Taxi Industry Protest Action Committee, confirmed that letters had been sent last week to various organisations and companies advising them of the planned protests.

The committee, a splinter group of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), organised the blockade at Toyota South Africa’s manufacturing plant in Prospecton in Durban in May and last month’s protests in Johannesburg and Midrand.

The letters were sent to the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa), SA Council of Shopping Centre’s (SACSC) and SA Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) and some individual companies, such as Pick * Pay and Makro.

The sources said some mall owners did not allow taxis on to their precincts, despite taxis bringing customers to malls.

Grievances with the fuel industry included that the taxi industry was not eligible to get a discount on fuel and was prohibited from obtaining licences to establish and operate fuel filling stations at taxi ranks.

The sources said they would be targeting Sapia, fuel depots and filling stations countrywide in planned future protest action. “We want Sapia to become a partner with the taxi industry in talking to the government. A company with a small group of buses can get discount on fuel by law, but the taxi industry cannot.

“In terms of the present law, if you use 100000 litres of fuel a month your are entitled to get a special dispensation and are able to purchase fuel at a user site facility that entirely cuts out the middle man."

"The industry could do that at ranks and allow taxi operators to get a 40c a litre discount on fuel that they can pass on to their customers.

“But it has to be one legal entity and taxi operators are independent entities. Individuals do not qualify. It’s a perfect example of manipulation, because of the way the law is written and to block that from happening,” they said.

The sources added that it was also not permissible to establish a new filling station within 3km of an existing filling station, which was an issue.

Sapia executive director Avhapfani Tshifularo confirmed it had received a letter from the taxi industry and indicated that they would be engaging the industry to try and understand how Sapia fitted into their planned protests.

“They might be targeting the wrong people. We have got nothing to do with the placement of service stations,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from the Sapoa, SACSC and Makro were unsuccessful.

David North, the group executive, strategy and corporate affairs at Pick * Pay, said the taxi industry played an important role in getting customers to their stores and most of their stand-alone stores were situated on major routes in close proximity to taxi ranks.

In malls, landlords made separate agreements with the taxi industry on where ranks should best be located, he said.

Listed retail focused property funds Vukile and Hyprop were both unaware of and puzzled by the planned protest action. Laurence Rapp, the chief executive of Vukile, said that given the demographics of the centres Vukile owned, it was very involved with the taxi industry and all their malls had taxi ranks on site.

“We recognise the role of the taxi industry and go out of our way to put in taxi ranks and make them as integrated as possible with the shopping centre.

"They are a key part of our planning and investment decisions and the performance of our centres,” he said.

Pieter Prinsloo, the chief executive of Hyprop, said they worked well with the taxi industry and tried, as best they could, to accommodate taxi operators at their centres.

“At a number of our malls, such as Clearwater, The Glen and Woodlands Boulevard, we have specific taxi facilities. I’m surprised to hear there is unhappiness with shopping malls,” he said.