As they marched to hand over their memorandum of grievances to the ministry of transport at Union Buildings in Pretoria, taxi owners and drivers affiliated to the National Taxi Alliance unequivocally registered their anger at the Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi’s slow response to their demands.
As they marched to hand over their memorandum of grievances to the ministry of transport at Union Buildings in Pretoria, taxi owners and drivers affiliated to the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) unequivocally registered their anger at the Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi’s slow response to their demands.
They accused him of playing games with them and acting like he is a ‘demi-god’. Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Theo Malele said the minister must be fired, not least because the minister didn’t come himself to collect the memorandum. He sent an acting deputy director general instead.
“We felt this was an insult. We are not sure if this memorandum will reach its intended destination. He is not taking us serious,” Malele said after handing over the memorandum.
Accompanying the memorandum was an intelligence document addressed to the President, which they handed to the Chief Director in the office of the President. He could not divulge its contents but said it addresses some of their concerns as the taxi industry.
Among their demands, the industry wants to be fully integrated into a transformed public transport system, wants a stake in the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, that government intervenes in motoring finance to end ballooning monthly installments on new minibus taxis that has impoverished them, that traffic fines be scrapped, and that Uber be banned.
“We have given them 21 working days to respond to all these. Failure to do this will take us back to the drawing board, [to] re-group and plan the next action. Whether this will result in another protest depends entirely on the members.”
The protest on Wednesday which brought the capital Tshwane City to a standstill, disrupted traffic and left thousands of commuters and students stranded. This inconvenience rendered them unsympathetic to the plight of the industry.
Lebo Molefe, a third-year student in journalism at Tshwane University of Technology, had to take Uber to avoid being late for exams. “I had to spend money that I didn’t budget for,” she moaned and said that even going back home was a mission as she had to wait until late when calm was restored in the City. “One taxi driver tried to sneak out with passengers at the rank. They found him, emptied the vehicle of passengers, and took the money and the car.”
Laurencia Matlaila, who works in one of the retail stores in the City said she and two other members in her family didn’t go to work because of the protest. “We usually use buses. They could not go through as roads were blocked. Lucky enough I had already told them at work that there was a possibility that I might not come to work,” she said and lamented the cost the protest has on the economy. “So many people didn’t go to work. Imagine that impact on our economy. While it is their right to strike, I wish next time they do things differently considering the rights of others and the strain this brings on the economy.”
Malele said they take criticism fairly and it was unfortunate that commuters had to be affected although the protest was communicated well in advance to allow commuters to make prior arrangements.
Overall, he said there were no major incidents of violence experienced and their members were on their best behaviour. He said sometimes they require a robust approach to gain the attention of the authorities. Meanwhile, the transport department has yet to release its official response to the protest.