TAXI drivers last week brought operations in the CBD to a standstill with their protest action against the Msunduzi Municipality’s traffic department imposing hefty traffic fines.
The strike action began last Thursday morning and went on into Friday, affecting routes leading into the city, including Langalibalele Street (Longmarket Street) and Camps Drift Road, among others.
Maritzburg Fever journalist Lethiwe Makhanya, who was amid the commotion while commuting to work on the morning of the strike, reported from Langalibalele Street that drivers were complaining about traffic officers who issue them with steep and unreasonable traffic fines.
“They say this leads to them losing their jobs, and some of these fines, they claim, are for minor offences like not wearing a seat belt,” Makhanya said.
She said the protesting drivers say their vehicles are impounded without a thorough inspection being conducted by traffic officers.
Other demands listed in a memorandum issued by the protesting drivers to the Msunduzi Municipality are that all tickets for traffic fines should be scrapped, that taxi stops should be created on Langalibalele Street, that traffic officers on duty should not hide but stand where all drivers can see them, that fines for vehicles should be issued to the owner of the taxi instead of the driver.
In the memorandum, complaints were raised about the cleanliness of taxi ranks and the traffic congestion at the Imbali Rank on Pietermaritz Street.
“From 5 am to 8 am, traffic officers should not stop taxis. Traffic officers should have a specific time that they arrive at the Imbali intersection. We request that the mayor should not accompany traffic officers during roadblocks,” the memorandum states. The strikers gave the municipality seven days to provide a response.
During the protest action last week, the violence escalated as traffic within the CBD came to a standstill, the area was made inaccessible and commuters were left stranded. The rank on Langalibalele Street was closed.
At around 1 pm last Thursday, a vehicle was set alight, allegedly by the protesting taxi drivers on Langalibalele Street near the Natalia building opposite the taxi rank.
Reports of the strikers making their way to the Msunduzi Traffic Department began circulating on social media.
Other messages that made the rounds on social media last weekend were that the strike action would resume. However, an official from KZN Santaco dismissed this as fake news, adding that after the deadline set by the protesters, a meeting with officials from the municipality and the taxi association will be held to resolve matters peacefully.