Schooling, health among services affected by Cape taxi strike
As desperate commuters climb through bus windows to hitch a ride or are forced to walk for kilometres, the minibus taxi strike is also affecting healthcare, schooling and other services in parts of the Western Cape.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) embarked on a strike on Thursday in protest at what it said were “frivolous impoundment operations” which had a negative affect on operators and the industry.
Tens of thousands of stranded commuters in Cape Town have been forced to make alternative transport arrangements. At least five busses and an ambulance have been torched since the strike started. Santaco distanced itself from the violence.
The provincial education department said the strike had kept more than 287,000 children home from school on Friday while 9,508 teachers and staff were prevented from working.
“The violence and chaos we saw overnight has resulted in parents keeping children home out of fear for their safety, even if they do not normally travel on public transport,” it said.
Mowbray residents rallied to assist 11 pupils from Thandokhulu High School who were stranded on Thursday night by providing food and sleeping materials.
Four pupils from Silverlea Primary School and Garlandale High School, who live in Khayelitsha, could not make it home. Education department officials put them up in a guest house and arranged meals and toiletries for them.
At Noluthando School for the Deaf, 16 pupils could not travel home out of Khayelitsha. The school arranged for them to spend the night at a teacher’s house. Wynberg Girls High School opened its hostel to pupils and staff who could not get home — 15 pupils and five security guards spent the night there.
An emergency services staff member was assaulted and their ambulance torched, several healthcare staff and a doctor were attacked and scores of hospital and clinic staff have been unable to get to work since Thursday.
Health department chief of operations Dr Saadiq Kariem condemned the attacks: “After a platform assessment of the impact the disruption has had on the safety of transport and our staff, many of our staff have been unable to get to their places of work, which will result in limited services being available at health facilities in the metro.”
Health and wellness MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo said on Friday: “If there are no staff, there are no healthcare services. While peaceful protest is a right which needs to be protected, the safety of our staff is paramount to us as a department. I condemn any act of violence that has taken place since the beginning of the minibus taxi strike.
“We urge communities to ensure our staff are allowed safe passage and protected, as our healthcare services are dependent on them being at work providing quality healthcare to residents.”
Health services affected on Friday included:
- elective surgery postponed at Tygerberg, Red Cross and Groote Schuur hospitals — only emergency surgery will be performed;
- community health centres and clinics are operating with limited capacity; and
- emergency services can only enter dangerous “red zones” under escort.
Other affected services in Cape Town include:
- the collection of refuse in some areas,
- attending to water and sanitation service requests,
- a number of clinics are rendering emergency services only,
- electricity department teams have been withdrawn from some areas; and
- various bus services are disrupted.
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