Breakdown in communication blamed for eThekwini taxi strike

2015-05-26 17:11
(Giordano Stolley, News24)

(Giordano Stolley, News24)

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WATCH: Durban taxi strikers set alight eThekwini parks lorry

2015-05-26 13:07

Durban taxi strikers set alight an eThekwini parks lorry. WATCH. WATCH

Durban - A communication breakdown between eThekwini Municipality and the local taxi industry resulted in a violent strike on Tuesday. This was revealed during an emergency meeting between the city’s executive members and the taxi industry at the Durban city hall.

A mandatory council meeting was disrupted after hundreds of armed taxi drivers marched to the city hall during a strike relating to route permits.

Exco was adjourned for five minutes after eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo was informed that the protestors had reached the city hall. Members from Santaco and the Taxi Alliance demanded to address the mayor.

Yusuf Khaliva from Santaco told the mayor: “There has been a communication breakdown and we want our impounded vehicles to be released. This is the reason why we took to the streets to air our grievances.  

“We used to have a really good relationship with the eThekwini Transport Alliance [ETA], but recently we have found that securing a meeting with the mayor was easier than with the ETA.

Explaining what happened, he said: “Last week Thursday there was a meeting the ETA and the Department of Transport where resolutions were taken.

“That same day, our vehicles were impounded because they had certified copies of the permits instead of the originals.

“We sat down with the Metro Police and told them there was a problem with the permits. We also informed the officials that permits get lost and that is why we decided that we will make certified copies. The next thing vehicles were impounded,” said Khaliva.

He said members in the taxi industry met on Monday night and decided to strike.

'They wanted their vehicles released'

Chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Taxi Alliance Thandumuzi Mbatha told the mayor that what happened on Tuesday was a result of a decision taken Monday evening.

“We met at 17:30 after drivers told us that they wanted their vehicles released. That is the reason we are here.

“When we appear in court to release the vehicles we are charged R2 000; then we are told that there is a discount. We are confused about the processes.

“Mayor, we don’t want the matter to get out of hand, the drivers are very angry. Although some of the vehicles have been released, a large number are still at the pound,” said Mbatha, adding that the industry felt betrayed by the city.

“We feel like the city has turned its back on us.”

Sgcina Thusi  from the Taxi Alliance said the Department of Transport is responsible for dealing with route permits, not the municipality.

"The Metro Police have nothing to do with this. We know that proper processes are not being followed by the municipality.

“What is unfortunate is that innocent people have been affected by the strike. Many people could not go to work today because there was no transport. I don’t have a problem with being arrested, but the arrest must be legal,” said Thusi.

He said if the city had met with the industry on Monday night, the strike could have been averted.

eThekwini’s City Manager Sbu Sithole told the industry their complaints would be investigated.

“I agree with you, we should have met last night because this situation could have been avoided. We received an SMS informing us there could be a strike but we were misled when we were told later that there was no strike,” said Sithole.

'You cannot go around beating people up'

However, he told the representatives that the city did not agree with violence.  

“If you have a problem with the Metro Police you cannot go around beating people up, vandalising property and attacking innocent people.

“If we allow that to happen then we would be allowing anarchy in the eThekwini,” said Sithole.

He asked the alliance how many of their vehicles had been impounded, but they could not give a figure.

“We can’t just release the vehicles without checking why they were seized in the first place,” said Sithole.

Nxumalo said the taxi drivers’ behaviour was unacceptable.

“We condemn what is happening outside because innocent people have been inconvenienced, property has been damaged and people were unable to go to work,” said Nxumalo.

He admitted there had been a communication breakdown.

“Had we communicated with you last night this could have been prevented. I would like for all of us to learn from this situation.”

“Thank you for informing us about your grievances, I would like to suggest that we meet at 15:30 with officials from the eThekwini Transport Alliance where we can discuss the matter further.”

Exco resumed shortly after the members left the boardroom.

Read more on:    durban  |  transport  |  protests

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