Monday’s looming taxi strike to leave thousands stranded

FILE PHOTO: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

Unless government comes to the table with much more than the R1.13 billion they have offered to help ease the taxi industry’s Covid-19 blues, thousands will be left stranded come Monday morning, as the industry intends to strike.

The Citizen reports, South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa on Friday said  they weren’t pleased with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s offer.

“We find the offer quite low for the industry because operators have already lost a lot of money. Since the lockdown, the industry has lost a minimum of R25 million a day, with the industry operating at 15% of its fleet.

“You also have to consider bank monthly instalments due at the beginning of July.”

He said the R1.135 billion package announced by Mbalula did not go to the taxi industry alone. “You had to consider meter taxis, Uber and Bolt industries who would get a chunk of that relief.”

Santaco now plans to hold government’s feet to the fire, by going on strike.

News24 reports that Molelekwa had confirmed this.

“The strike is definitely on. Gauteng has told us to expect a letter with their decision to embark on a strike. We understand the pressure on the ground especially in Gauteng. There is fear where banks expect payment from 1 July because the payment holiday is over.

“Gauteng has never had confidence in this process and felt that government was unjustly treating the industry. The situation was also compounded by continuous increasing impoundment of taxis during this period.”

Meanwhile engagements with government were still continuing, in an attempt to avert the strike.

“We believe not all avenues have been exhausted. Our biggest setback was the announcement by Minister Fikile Mbalula over the relief payment after he had immediately engaged with us in a meeting. We thought he would afford us an opportunity to respond. We are going to meet him next week. The announcement has caught us in an awkward position and we are unable to deal with masses on the ground.

Molelekwa ad on Friday said owners would walk away with an estimated R2,500 to R3,800 each, should they accept the offer Mbalula had put on the table, which would not go far toward easing their losses sustained during the lockdown.

“In the next six months, you’re likely to see between 30 to 35 taxi operators losing their taxis to repossessions.

“We need to find practical solutions going forward.”

Santaco believes the minister gave the impression that the industry did not want to comply, which was inaccurate. The industry favoured compliance, it said, but systems to be put in place need a nod from both parties.

Meanwhile, National Taxi Alliance spokesperson Theo Malele said they have been monitoring the rapid escalation of capital and operational costs in the taxi industry with great concern.

Malele said they have come to a conclusion that the taxi fare increase is inevitable.

“The combination of the ever increasing prices and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown regulations have made the fare increases both circumstantial and… inevitable.

“We therefore recommend that our member taxi associations may increase their fares with due regard to the affordability trends of the commuting public. In this regard, taxi fare increases where lower increments may not be possible, the increment quantum must not exceed 40%,” Malele said.

He said they also met with Mbalula on 17 June, where they persuaded him the taxis should revert to loading 100% and allow inter-provincial taxis to operate.

“We also strongly disagreed with the relief fund quantum given the dire straits the taxi industry finds itself. Mbalula undertook to give the taxi industry feedback on all three critical matters on 23 June.

“NTA will make an announcement on the above after the Tuesday meeting with the Minister,” Malele said.

The Citizen