On Friday afternoon, minibus taxis caused traffic havoc in the CBD and on the N2 and M5, blocking traffic. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – Alleged hostility by the City of Cape Town towards the taxi industry has been blamed for a situation that has led to the suspension of the MyCiTi Express service on the N2 and a deteriorating relationship resulting in recent taxi-related protests and blockades.

Another taxi strike/blockade has been put on hold while the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) holds talks with Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela this week to address their grievances, acting Western Cape chairperson Mzoxolo Didela said.

On Friday afternoon, minibus taxis caused traffic havoc in the CBD and on the N2 and M5, blocking traffic. More than 130 taxis were impounded last week.

“I have met with the taxi associations before but the talks were not productive," Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said at the weekend. 

Andile Soyama, of the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association, said the taxi industry is aggrieved by the treatment they are receiving from the City of Cape Town – primarily for not being treated as an equal partner with MyCiTi, Metrorail and Golden Arrow.

"We are struggling to survive without a subsidy and we don't know why we are not being treated as an equal partner in the transport industry."

Former Mayco member for transport Brett Herron believes the City's transport "war" with the taxi industry isn't in the best interests of Capetonians – nor is it a war they can win.

"If you look at the last year or so, there certainly has been an attitude expressed by the current government of the City of Cape Town, Mayco in particular, that is hostile to the taxi industry," Herron said.

"You can see it in the way the MyCiTi Express was handled and Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase in fact called the taxi operators illegal businesses, when in fact we engaged with lawfully, licensed minibus taxi operators throughout the MyCiTi process.

"The City has started on the wrong foot with the way they handled the N2 Express and its collapse and the hostility with Codeta Khayelitsha is not helpful – nor their general hostility towards the industry and their legitimacy.

"We worked really hard to create a partnership with the taxi industry so that we could work with them to improve operations for the taxi businesses and also their conduct on the road. So the department I left had a different approach on how we partnered and approached the taxi industry.

"The hostility is not serving the citizens of Cape Town. It is borne out of ignorance. If your starting point is that the taxi industry is filled with criminals, you will hear comments that they don't pay taxes, then you have no chance of building a partnership with the industry.

"The industry is the biggest player in transport in Cape Town, if not South Africa, as the rail service served those communities who were not provided with public transport throughout the apartheid era. 

"And as the rail service declined, then you need alternatives. So to be engaged in hostility with the taxi industry doesn't make sense. 

"It certainly doesn't serve the poorest communities of our city and their interests. You're just denying mobility and access and confining them to the areas where they were dumped during apartheid. 

"You can't separate public transport from spacial injustice in our society and the way our government is going about it is just entrenching the exclusion of people from economic zones in our city.

"It's not a war the City can win. The starting point is you have to address the supply and demand in the mobility space and in the Dunoon area, for example, we were developing a new business plan that recognised the MyCiTi wasn't able to meet the demands from the area. 

"You have a community where you have withdrawn taxi services and launched the MyCiTi, but the MyCiTi's frequency and capacity was falling short of rapidly growing demand in the Dunoon area. 

"So you have to address the imbalance because you can't expect people to not be able to get to work or the amenity they want to reach.

"So there is a supply and demand analysis that needs to be done honestly and the work can't continue in a space where there is such hostility towards taxi operators, especially in those West Coast suburbs.

"Then you have to pursue a different model for transport that recognises the minibus taxi industry as an equal and legitimate transport partner, as any other mode.

"There is often a question of legitimacy around the taxi industry and if you don't recognise it as a co-equal in the public transport space and treat them like criminals, that isn't helpful for mobility in the city.

"We were working on a new model for minibus taxi companies, just like Golden Arrow and MyCiTi are operated, that would have given minibus taxi operators a much more clearer role in the public transport space.

"'Just as you would engage with Golden Arrow and Metrorail around their services and how they are operating, you need to engage with the minibus taxi industry and how they provide their services and find partnerships. 

"Because just as Metrorail needed something from the City, and Golden Arrow and the MyCiTi, to provide their service, so the taxi industry also needs to be heard."

Cape Times