Taxi violence 'out of control'
Pretoria - Taxi related violence in Johannesburg is spiralling out of control, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) said on Wednesday.
Briefing the media in Pretoria, secretary general Philip Taaibosch said the violence stemmed from frustration that government did not honour the role the industry played.
The arrests of over 60 operators since the weekend and the intimidation of many more by police was "calculated, psychological manipulation" and an attempt to paint the industry as resistant to change, especially to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, he said.
"While Johannesburg has now acquired the attention of South Africa, further instilling worries about the FIFA World Cup due in June this year, we wish to appeal to the City of Johannesburg to retreat on this attitude (of confrontation) as it is now slowly spiralling into other parts of the country."
Taaibosch said government's constant non co-operation had led to a looming national strike and taxi operators being arrested with no distinct charges.
"It's not about using the 2010 as a platform. We support it and have been looking forward to it, but if it happens that the strike goes on to 2010 let it be, but it is not planned."
Taaibosch said taxi operators were seriously concerned about continued intimidation and unfortunately with the "razzmatazz", commuters were suffering.
"It is grossly unfair. This is not a police state. It looks like we are getting to be a police state though," Santaco Johannesburg executive member Frans Mashishi said.
Members were also disgruntled that they were not involved in any transport-related activities during the World Cup.
"We have had many, many meetings with the MECs, but we have no clarity on our involvement. But if they call us we will be ready," Mashishi said.
Taaibosch also lashed out at government and, in particular, the media for placing the issue of converted and illegal panel vans at its door.
"We did absolutely nothing wrong. They should stop lying that the taxi industry has anything to do with this."
Taaibosch said taxis - even converted panel vans - had been bought legally and with government collusion with dealerships and manufacturers.
Concerns not justified
He said he had also spoken to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe regarding the taxi violence and was disturbed that the industry's concerns were not regarded as justified.
However, despite the so-called reneging on the taxi's involvement in the BRT process, Taaibosch said the industry still backed President Jacob Zuma's commitment to include it.
He said Zuma had passed the issue to Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who had in turn delegated the problem to his deputy Jeremy Cronin, who the industry had no confidence in.
"Jeremy Cronin, the deputy minister, has not said anything positive about this programme (the BRT). We do not have complete confidence," Taaibosch said.