Taxi operators go noisily on the warpath

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BATTLE cries of “Impi, uyayivubela impi, uyayivubela” (war, he is declaring war) rang out in the centre of the capital as taxi operators marched yesterday to protest against the government’s recapitalisation programme.

What the march by taxi operators from as far as Durban lacked in physical violence was more than made up for in unprintable expletives.

The angry operators marched through the streets of Pietermaritzburg to hand over a memorandum of grievances to the Department of Transport and the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.

They sang war songs and chanted slogans including “Ngabe siyabashaya sibanjwe umthetho,” (we could have unleased hell on them [the authorities] if it were not for our respect for the law).

Other songs contained unprintable epithets.

They complained about the taxi recapitalisation process, the permits and the Transport Department licensing board, which they said was rude and inefficient.

Others protesters wrote on cardboard posters that they would never get rid of their Siyaya taxis, a Toyota minibus model the government wants off the roads by September this year.

One woman wrote: “I do not have a husband, I have my Siyaya.”

KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance chairperson Eugene Hadebe said they were fed up with the permits system and the rude officials of the Licensing Board who issued permits.

He said the officials gave permits to their cronies.

“Today we are saying enough is enough; we want the government to stop interfering in our business.”

Hadebe warned that the operators would no longer tolerate the harassment of their drivers by traffic officers demanding permits.

The march, which was scheduled to begin at 8 am, got under way at 11.15 am. It did not live up to expectations as only a few hundred people turned up instead of the thousands who were expected.

This was attributed to the fact that taxis were operating as normal and only owners had marched.

Although the march was peaceful, tempers flared before the march began when police allegedly impounded a BMW belonging to a driver who entertained the crowds by spinning it in Dales Park, doing tricks commonly known as “making doughnuts”.

A few men carrying knobkerries and sticks rushed towards the police. One shouted: “These people must kill us now, they harass us on the roads and now they are harassing us when we are just gathering.”

There were few traffic and business disruptions in the city centre. Many taxis were operating.

Sihle Mlotshwa of the Department of Education said the department had not received any notice of disruptions from its districts.

Kwanele Ncalane of the department of transport said the issues raised by taxi operators were not new and they would continue to engage with the taxi operators to resolve them.

He said there were minor disruptions in the Durban area in the morning and the situation was back to normal by the afternoon.

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