Government says it will continue to engage with the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) over its demands, but adds that the talks will also centre around regulating the industry.
The National Taxi Alliance has threatened legal action against the government to force it to release the R1.35-billion COVID-19 taxi relief funds it says it has been promised.
On Wednesday, members of associations affiliated with the NTA embarked on a strike, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
They also marched to the offices of the Transport Department and the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The NTA has given Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula a 14-day ultimatum in which to respond to its demands or face legal action.
The funds were expected to be released by the end of October.
The Alliance also wants the government to recognise it as a legitimate organisation.
Transport Deputy Minister Dikeledi Magadzi accepted the NTA’s memorandum on behalf of Mbalula.
Magadi says: “The Minister indicated that he will continue talking but at the centre of our discussions, we must make sure that there is unity in the industry… and proper leadership in the industry… and we regulate the industry in accordance with the law.”
In the video, the NTA hands over their memorandum to the Transport Department:
Commuters left stranded
Thousands of commuters were left stranded on Wednesday as they had to find alternative sources of transport to help them get to work and back to their homes.
Promise Njali, a commuter in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, said the strike would have a heavy financial impact on her as she would have to spend five times more than her usual fare to get to work.
Bus services in the City of Tshwane had to be suspended after one of its drivers was hijacked, allegedly by members of the NTA.
Commuters were forced out of the bus, while the driver managed to flee the scene during the hijacking.
Physically kicking us off Tshwane bus, when buses are on strike taxis operate as normal no one disrupts them kodwa bona manje @Tshwanebus2 @MbalulaFikile #Nationaltaxistrike can we please be protected, or should we accept that taxis govern themselves pic.twitter.com/QSw3TTXF3r
— Wandile Masango (@WandileMasango2) November 18, 2020
Calls for industry transformation
The South African National Taxi Council’s (Santaco) embarked on a national shutdown in June this year, saying it was sending a strong message to the government to agree to their demands of R20 000 per taxi as part of COVID-19 relief funding.
During his address to striking drivers, Mbalula reiterated that the money offered to taxi owners, which amounts to R5 000 each, is a relief and not intended to compensate them for losses they suffered during the national lockdown.
He said that it was the right time to transform the taxi industry.
Frustrated taxi drivers and owners expressed their distaste at what they said was insufficient aid from the government.
Mbalula called on taxi owners to stop fighting government and instead rather focus on negotiations to fix the industry so that it can survive in a post-COVID world:
-Additional reporting by Phumzile Mlangeni and Sashin Naidoo