At least one vehicle set alight in Pietermaritzburg taxi strike

2018-01-25 17:42
Chaos in Pietermaritzburg during taxi strike. (Supplied: Niksha Deeplaul)

Chaos in Pietermaritzburg during taxi strike. (Supplied: Niksha Deeplaul)

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Pietermaritzburg – At least one vehicle has been set alight and several others have been pelted with stones during a strike by minibus taxi drivers in the Pietermaritzburg CBD on Thursday.

Pictures of roads barricaded with burning rubble, concrete rubbish bins and a burning car have been circulated on social media.

South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) Umgungundlovu region chairperson Bheki Sokhela told News24 that the strike was organised by minibus taxi drivers who are not happy with the "expensive" fines they get from the Umsunduzi municipality's traffic officers when letting passengers off in the CBD.

"When we woke up this morning (Thursday), the drivers were already on strike. When they spoke to us as taxi operators in the region, they told us that the Umsunduzi municipality's traffic officers were charging them a loaf and a half when fining them for minor offences such as offloading in the CBD," he said.

Traffic fines

He said some of the drivers showed them traffic fines that were as high as R7 000.

In the CBD, there are no designated passenger offloading zones for taxis, he said.

"They asked where are they supposed to offload when there are no offloading zones. The drivers are not against the traffic fines, but they are asking for reasonable fines that they can afford to pay," he said.

The drivers also demanded that traffic officers not conduct road blocks between 05:00 and 08:00 in the morning.

Chaos in Pietermaritzburg during taxi strike. (Supplied: Niksha Deeplaul) 

Drunk drivers

Sokhela said Santaco had met with the municipality's officials and had given them a memorandum of the drivers' grievances.

"They'll get back to us within seven days," he said.

He denied any knowledge of cars being pelted with stones and set alight.

"I haven't heard about that. I was in the meeting with municipal officials at the city hall. I can't confirm if it happened or not. What I know is that police attempted to arrest some of them," he said.

He said he was doubtful that taxis would resume operating on Thursday afternoon.

"Most of the drivers were drunk during the strike and I don't think they are in a good state to drive. I can't put people's lives at risk by allowing them to drive passengers home because they might cause accidents now," said Sokhela, adding that he "thinks" the minibus taxis would only start operating on Friday.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha told News24 via WhatsApp that the municipality condemned "the illegal strike in the strongest possible terms".

"We have received the memorandum from the taxi operators and we will be responding to it through the organised taxi body.

"We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the residents, visitors and businesses that were affected by such. We are working with the police, municipality security to ensure the situation is contained. We condemn vandalizing of property and the law will take its cause where necessary," she said.

Chaos in Pietermaritzburg during taxi strike. (Supplied: Niksha Deeplaul) 


KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo strongly condemned the burning of a departmental vehicle, and disruptions to healthcare service delivery at Edendale Hospital "due to the actions of protesting taxi drivers".

"In addition to the torching of the vehicle on Langalibalele Street, the protesting taxi drivers blocked access to and from Edendale Hospital resulting in some patients having to be sent home. While patients struggled to get to the hospital, some operations had to be cancelled as doctors couldn't get to work on time," he said in a statement.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

WATCH: Moments leading up to car being torched in #PmbTaxiStrike

Read more on:    santaco  |  pietermaritzburg  |  protests

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