UDM: Zuma played taxi drivers
Johannesburg - Taxi drivers could be forgiven for thinking President Jacob Zuma strung them along to keep the peace ahead of last year's elections, United Democratic Front leader Bantu Holomisa said on Monday.
"The taxi industry could be forgiven for wondering whether they were simply being strung along to support the ANC election campaign, or at the very least not to disrupt the ANC's campaign," said Holomisa as some drivers protested against the introduction of the next phase of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Johannesburg.
Holomisa recalled that last year, just before the election which saw Zuma brought in as president, he met taxi operators to hear their grievances about the Rea Vaya buses, which form part of the country's reconfiguration of public transport.
At the time, Zuma was sympathetic to taxi operators and said the introduction of the BRT should be temporarily halted.
The BRT buses run along main routes with the taxis intended to feed these routes.
Some operators, like those associated with the United Taxi Association Forum (Utaf), said the government is taking over routes that they took decades to craft, calling them, their "intellectual property".
To show resistance, they withdrew their services again on Monday, as new buses were rolled out, placing a heavy strain on the remaining buses and trains and leaving many people unable to get to work.
In addition, at least 10 taxi operators were arrested for alleged public violence in Jabulani, while Metrorail said it had had to remove burning tyres from its tracks.
Police also had to monitor the bus routes.
Holomisa called on the government to "take the matter in hand".
The large buses with the concertina-like centre, form part of the World Cup 2010 transport plans between the city and Soweto.
The services being rolled out on Monday include a new complementary bus service running directly from Dobsonville to the Johannesburg central business district, and Ellis Park station, as well as feeder services taking passengers from Naledi to Thokoza Park station, from Jabavu to Lake View station and from Mofolo to Boomtown station.
By December last year the Johannesburg council and the city's taxi industry said 167 operators had agreed to take their vehicles off the road in return for compensation of over R3m from the city.
However, there have been a number of shootings linked to the introduction of the new system, the most recent on Friday night in Klipriver Valley road when a bus was racked with gunfire, but nobody was injured.
A spokesperson for Utaf was not immediately available.