Taxi protest looms for Durban
Durban commuters, including office workers and school children, could find themselves sitting at home on Wednesday if they don’t make alternative transport arrangements.
Taxi owners are planning to converge on the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday to deliver a list of grievances to Premier Zweli Mkhize. And in a show of support, their drivers – about 5 000 in total – may not be reporting for work.
The planned taxi strike will affect commuters throughout Durban.
“The march (to the legislature) is being organised by the taxi owners, and to avoid what happened the last time there was a strike of commuters being stranded – we have decided not to operate at all on the day,” Musa Vilakazi-Ndlovu, chairman of Qina Mshayeli, the drivers’ union, said on Monday.
In May, hundreds of commuters were stranded at their workplaces after striking taxi drivers stopped operating after dropping passengers off in the morning.
The violent strike, over perceived harassment of drivers by metro police, left buses and cars damaged.
But Vilakazi-Ndlovu said things would be much calmer tomorrow if the strike went ahead. He said commuters would not be prevented from using other modes of transport.
He apologised for the inconvenience, saying “we have no choice because our grievances from the last strike have still not been met”.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport’s system of issuing permits was one of the taxi industry’s gripes. Another was the arrest of drivers who did not have the required permits.
“Some permits are held up at the department for reasons drivers don’t know. And when police have roadblocks for permits they arrest the drivers,” Vilakazi-Ndlovu said.
“We think impounding taxis for permits is more viable than arresting the drivers.”
KZN Transport Alliance chairman, Eugene Radebe, confirmed that taxi owners would be handing over a letter containing their grievances. Whether drivers worked on the day would depend on the drivers and their individual employers, he said.
“There will be a mass meeting at Curries Fountain stadium today where taxi owners will decide whether their drivers will work,” Radebe said.
Secretary of the Top Six Taxi Alliance, Big Boy Dladla, said operators were also dissatisfied with the government’s taxi recapitalisation programme and legislation which would make it impossible to sell a taxi older than six years to another operator.
“If you have a taxi that was bought before 2006 you cannot sell it to someone else as the buyer cannot get a taxi operating licence for it.”
He said the taxi operators were not interested in taking advantage of the programme.
The R7.7 billion programme was first announced in 1999 and came into effect in October 2006 in an attempt to replace the country’s minibus taxi fleet with more modern and safer vehicles.
In terms of the programme, taxi owners were paid R50 000 to have a vehicle scrapped.
The owner could then use this money to leave the industry or as a down payment on a newer, safer vehicle.
Since 2006, 48 000 taxis have been scrapped, of which about 5 000 were from KwaZulu-Natal.
Department of Transport spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said yesterday that the issues raised by the taxi owners were being addressed and Transport MEC, Willies Mchunu, saw no need for a march.
“Our doors are always open for dialogue and there has been no one person that we have talked with until reaching deadlock,” he said. “The MEC respects their right to march as long they respect the right of those not marching.”
eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said officials had only been made aware of the march through media reports, but said they would monitor the situation tomorrow to ensure minimal disruption to commuters.
Mkhize’s spokesman, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said the premier’s office would issue a media statement on Wednesday on who would be at the legislature to accept the letter of grievances. - Daily News