Pretoria - Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi was on Wednesday accused of "playing games" with the lives of millions of South Africans who are impacted directly by the taxi industry in the country.
National Taxi Alliance (NTA) President Francis Matsitsa told more than a thousand taxi drivers and operators gathered at the department of transport in Pretoria central that Maswanganyi's days are numbered - just like several individuals who preceded him.
"You need to stop playing games with the taxi industry. We are the taxi industry, and we are not going anywhere. You can hope and wish the taxi industry will disappear, but it will never disappear. We have seen several ministers serve in your position," said Matsitsa.
"You will one day regret having ignored the NTA. All of them [previous ministers] have been fired in their numbers, and you will face the same thing. We can assure you that you will not see us in the same way again. Rest assured, many more ministers are coming after you."
Earlier, NTA national spokesperson Theo Malele said the taxi industry in South Africa, despite being the biggest public transport sector moving up to 70 percent of commuting South Africans per day, is currently besieged by problems which the government is not addressing.
“Our challenges have been put to many ministers that came to the department of transport, and they have failed to address these issues adequately. When there was a Cabinet reshuffle, and we heard that Dipuo Peters had been replaced by Joe Maswanganyi, we immediately wrote a letter complimenting Joe on his appointment but he lacked the courtesy of appreciating that,” said Malele as the strike kicked off.
“We then followed that up with a letter that was requesting him to convene a meeting with us, where we would be able to lay our issues on the table for him to address. He didn’t respond positively to that.
“He didn’t respond at all. We then took it upon ourselves, our members gave us a mandate to apply for a march to go and present our grievances to the minister [Maswanganyi].”
Malele said the association resolved to march to the Union Buildings as well because “it is the Presidency that is responsible for placing these ministers in office”.
“We would want the issue of our grievances to be central to the political agenda going forward. The discourse of today is precipitated by the unworkable taxi recapitalization, the non-subsidization of the taxi industry, the non-issuance of operating licences to deserving taxi operators – to name but a few,” said Malele.
The strike on Wednesday was marred by intimidation of motorists and blocking of major roads by the protesting taxi drivers.
Malele said their protest was meant to be “peaceful”.
After the stopover at the department of transport department, the large crowd set off for the Union Buildings, east of Pretoria.