Transport Minister and JP Smith in war of words over taxi strike

Minister of Transport Sindi Chikunga during her visit in Cape Town recently. File Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Minister of Transport Sindi Chikunga during her visit in Cape Town recently. File Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 8, 2023


Transport Minister Sindi Chikunga is flying to Cape Town to take part in negotiations to solve the taxi crisis that has crippled the city and province.

Chikunga said the taxi industry strike could be resolved if all parties, including the City of Cape Town, come to the negotiating table.

The minister also accused the city of using the wrong by-laws to impound 6,000 taxis.

But MMC for Safety and Security in Cape Town JP Smith denied the claim by the minister and accused her of inciting violence.

“Minister Chikunga, why are you trying to incite further violence by making false statements?

“Please can the public help us, whoever is closest to the minister, lean over her and explain to her very slowly. ‘No minibus taxi has ever been impounded within Cape Town, because of a by-law. Never. Taxis have only been impounded under her National Land Transport Act. It’s her Act. From 2009. If it is illegal, how come she only decided this today? After 14 years’,” said Smith.

Chikunga, who was briefing the media on Tuesday, said the municipality has been using wrong laws to impound taxis.

She ordered it to release 6,000 taxis that had been impounded using these wrong laws.

“We call on the City of Cape Town to respect and uphold national laws as they currently stand. To this end, we call on the city to return to the negotiating table, address the areas of disagreement and demonstrate a genuine effort to find a lasting solution to the current challenges. We call on the city to immediately release without any conditions all vehicles impounded based on the National Road Traffic Act and leave those that are impounded on the basis of the National Land Transport Act of 2009.

“We have the National Land Transport Act and the issue of impounding minibus taxis is actually found in that legislation. It is in section 87 of the National Land Transport Act and that act specifies when you can impound a minibus taxi,” said Chikunga.

She said the city can make by-laws, but they must be consistent with national laws.

“They can make by-laws but those cannot be in conflict with the national legislation as no national legislation can be in conflict with the Constitution. What is not illegal is for the city to have by-laws, but those by-laws when they are in conflict with national legislation, then it’s illegal.

“The taxi strike emanates from the impoundment of their vehicles, 6,000 of them are impounded and not in operation. Why that impoundment? Because the city is executing and implementing a wrong legislation and that is why we are forced to talk about these two pieces of legislation,” said Chikunga.

She was hoping the meeting on Tuesday will be able to find a solution to the crisis.

But she was going to stay in Cape Town for as long as it takes to reach an agreement by all parties.

Chikunga said the strike was reflecting badly on South Africa, as countries have already issued travel alerts to the citizens about what was happening, and this would impact on the economy.

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