Taxis threaten wider country-wide shutdown after leaving thousands stranded in Gauteng
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Durban - THE Gauteng taxi industry shutdown, which left thousands of employees stranded on Monday had the support of all the provinces, including Kwa- Zulu-Natal, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) says.
Santaco first deputy president Boy Zondi yesterday said their KZN branch did not shut down as they were waiting to engage with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tomorrow.
“If the minister’s engagement doesn’t address our needs, there will be a countrywide shutdown of the taxi industry,” Zondi said.
The taxi operators took their vehicles off the road in protest against lack of government support to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has provided R1.1billion to the sector as it had been forced to operate far below capacity under the lockdown from March 27.
But the government has indicated it cannot afford the taxi industry’s demand for the state to increase support to around R5bn.
On Monday, EyeWitness News said soldiers and police were working to reopen major routes blocked by taxi drivers in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The United Association of SA said this week that striking minibus taxis were holding South Africa to ransom.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) had on Monday embarked on a series of strikes across Gauteng, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
The council said the protests were to convey a visible rejection of just over R1 billion in relief funding the industry was granted by the government following the strict Covid-19 lockdown, which affected the pockets of industry players due to transport restrictions.
But in his statement, UASA spokesperson Stanford Mazhindu called the industry's demand far-fetched.
"Striking taxi associations are holding the country to ransom in a time where we should all be working towards economic recovery," said Mazhindu.
"Voicing dissatisfaction with what they believe to be inadequate support to the industry from government to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are conveniently forgetting that we are all facing tough times as a nation and this is not only specific to them.
"Providing R1.1 billion to prop up the taxi industry, government has done more to alleviate the sector’s loss of income than most other industries."
Mazhindu described the industry's conduct as "shameful, unfair and unjustifiable under the circumstances", adding that it was taking advantage of vulnerable workers that had no other means of getting to work and earning money to look after their families, many of whom lost incomes during level 4 and 5 lockdowns, and were trying to find their feet again.
"All South Africans have been asked for more than we should due to the coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns. It is now more than ever important for us to come together and walk the road to economic recovery."