Taxi drivers back behind the wheel in Gauteng after strike chaos

23 June 2020 - 07:49
By Iavan Pijoos
Taxi drivers having words with police north of Pretoria during the strike on Monday, June 22 2020.
Image: Sunday Times/Thapelo Morebudi Taxi drivers having words with police north of Pretoria during the strike on Monday, June 22 2020.

There was respite for frustrated commuters in Gauteng on Tuesday as the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) confirmed that drivers were back behind the wheel.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula told taxi operators they had “no right” to close roads and intimidate people during a one-day strike on Monday in protest against government's R1.14bn Covid-19 relief package for the industry. Taxi operators say the package is too little after being dealt a financial blow during the coronavirus lockdown.

The strike saw a city bus being hijacked by protesters in Tshwane, roads being blocked and police accompanied by soldiers ordering protesters to reopen some roads. Commuters were left stranded.

“The strike was just for [Monday], today all taxi operators are working in the province,” Santaco spokesperson Midday Mali said on Tuesday.

Mbalula, who visited Soshanguve, east of Pretoria, on Monday, said the strike was “counterproductive”.

He called on taxi operators to call off the shutdown. “I need the taxi industry and they need me too. We can’t resolve our issues by blocking roads.

“I can’t go beyond R5,000 [relief per taxi]. There are other industries that have closed down because of Covid-19. At no stage did I, or government, undermine the efforts of the taxi industry in terms of supporting preservation of life for our people,” he said.

BusinessLIVE reported that Mbalula announced the R1.14bn Covid-19 relief fund for the taxi industry at the weekend but it was accompanied by stringent conditions.

They included taxi operations having to be formally registered as a business entity with a banking account into which the relief allowance could be paid. The businesses had to be registered for income tax and employees registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the Compensation Commission and for the skills development levy.