PRETORIA - Taxis were cashing in on the absence of buses on the streets of Pretoria on Wednesday, due to a national strike by bus operators which left thousands of commuters stranded across South Africa.

Taxi driver Tiyani Madoda who plies the Marabastad [Pretoria West] - Mamelodi [Pretoria east] route said the absence of buses meant more money for the taxi operators.

"This is business my brother. We are working and is it bad if we make more money? Let the bus drivers strike," said Madoda.

In Mamelodi, some motorists complained that they were intimidated by taxi drivers when they wanted to ferry some stranded motorists.

"We say South Africa is a free country, but why can't I be allowed to take a few passengers in my car? We get intimidated by taxi drivers when we ferry these stranded people. Is it a crime to help out our fellow community members? Why do taxi drivers have to enforce the law - if it's a law," said one motorist who requested not be mentioned.

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Some motorists alleged that they get intimidated, or attacked, even when they ferry their colleagues and relatives who need transport.

Many commuters had to seek alternative transport as drivers in the bus sector affiliated to the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) downed tools at 6am and embarked on a national strike after wage negotiations with employer bodies, Commuter Bus Employers Organisation and the South African Bus Employers Association (Sabea), reached a deadlock.

The drivers are demanding a 12 percent wage increase while the employers are offering seven percent.

Despite the alleged intimidation of motorists by taxi drivers and taxi associations, the Tshwane Metro Police Department and the Gauteng  Traffic Police (TMPD) said there were no reports of violence related to the strike on Wednesday by midday.

"It is very quiet. No incidents were reported to us thus far. We picked that commuters were flocking to taxi ranks this morning with no incidents," TMPD spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba told African News Agency. 

"We will continue to monitor situations in townships, and along the free ways of Tshwane."

At a provincial level, Gauteng Traffic Police's Busaphi Nxumalo said she had also heard of the random intimidation of motorists who ferry stranded commuters.

"At the moment it's a peaceful strike. There has been nothing reported. However, I heard people reporting on a radio station that they were stopped by the taxi [association] squad car and they told them they don't have permission to convey people for reward," said Nxumalo.

Earlier, South Africa's Transport Minister Blade Nzimande appealed to all parties involved in the negotiations aimed at ending the bus strike to urgently and cordially find a negotiated settlement.

In a statement, Nzimande said that parties involved must find a solution inspired by a common desire to make the bus industry a reliable, attractive and safe public transport mode.

"The only reasonable outcome that government expects from the negotiations is the immediate resumption of bus operations, whilst labour and employers are finding a permanent solution to the impasse," he said.

Nzimande said that he was observing with keen interest on the negotiations aimed at ending this bus strike.

African News Agency/ANA