Eastern Cape commuters brace for 100% shutdown of taxis

Taxis are parked at a rank. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
Taxis are parked at a rank. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Eastern Cape commuters are expected to be stranded on Wednesday, as the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) threatens to shut down services across the province.

The leadership of Santaco in the Eastern Cape have said that this is because provincial Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana is "not taking the taxi industry seriously".

"We are not taken seriously. If she took us seriously, we would not be going on strike," deputy chairperson of the region, Lungiswa Mfanamabija, told News24 on Monday.

"No one will be travelling on that particular day, no one is going to school or work."

READ: Cele vows to shut down Western Cape taxi ranks if violence continues

A march is planned on Calata House, the ANC's provincial offices in King William's Town.

Some of the grievances shared with News24 are issues such as the state of roads, the increase in the fuel price, commuters opting to hike instead of catching taxis, and the tedious process of obtaining a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP).

This is not the first time these issues have been brought to the fore, according to Mfanamabija.

"In 2016, we had a similar strike about fuel escalation. Government was supposed to take care of this, which they did not do," she complained.

"The condition of roads in the province is terrible and not maintained," she continued.

On the question of PrDPs, Santaco feels their drivers are being exploited.

A PrDP must be renewed every two years, while the normal driver's license is renewed every five years. Santaco wants it to be concurrent, so that if a licence expires in five years, the case must be the same for PrDP holders because otherwise the process becomes expensive, Mfanamabija argues.

'People are allowed to hike in the Eastern Cape'

Santaco also accused Tikana of placing individuals in danger by allegedly allowing hiking in the province.

"People are allowed to hike in the Eastern Cape. We are not worried about the money we lose, but it puts our people in danger," Mfanamabija said.

Tikana's office replied that it had sat down with Santaco leaders on numerous occasions to discuss constant fuel hikes, especially with regards to school transport operators.

"We recognise that the cry as a legitimate one, however due to budgetary constraints, our hands are tied," said departmental spokesperson Unathi Binqose.

Binqose said allegations of arrogance and not taking the industry seriously were "unfortunate" and "unfair".

"MEC Tikana is one of the most humble, fair and yet very firm people around," said Binqose.

"She has on numerous occasions held robust, frank and yet cordial engagements with leaders in the taxi industry and she also acknowledges the role played by the taxi industry in keeping the weeks of production and service delivery moving in the province."

He said the MEC would be attending the release of the provincial crime statistics on Tuesday, but that discussions were still ongoing behind closed doors.

"What we have come to realise is that taxi operators are hell-bent [on striking]."

The department urged commuters to make alternative transport arrangements.

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