Pietermaritzburg blockaded by taxi drivers
Protest against high traffic fines leaves residents stranded
Taxi drivers in Pietermaritzburg barricaded roads into and out of the city on Thursday, demanding to see Mayor Themba Njilo about traffic fines they say are excessive.
Township residents and learners were stranded as roads were blocked with stones and burning tyres.
A driver from Caluza said taxi drivers wanted explanations from the municipality. “From December we started noticing that the traffic fines were high. Some of us are given R5,000 fines just for stopping in the wrong area. These fines are ridiculous. I get paid R1,000 a week and I have to pay that fine. The city does not have enough suitable taxi stops. Where are we supposed to stop if there are no taxi stops? We want the mayor to explain to us how do we survive in these situations,” he said.
Thembile Ngobese, who lives in Pelham, said she was taking her daughter to school on her way to work at Edendale Hospital when she found Edendale Road blocked at 6am. “I am a nurse and I’m on an 8am shift. We couldn’t pass. They were threatening to damage our cars if we tried to pass. The whole day is ruined and there is nothing we can do,” said Ngobese, whose daughter missed school.
While waiting for the mayor, some drivers were throwing bottles on the road. Some went and bought liquor and started drinking, swearing and stopping learners in uniform from walking past. Residents were sitting on the side of the road eating from the lunch boxes they had been taking to work.
A Slangspruit taxi driver told GroundUp that drivers also wanted answers about delays processing applications for Professional Driving Permits (PDPs). He said the process took three weeks and while waiting, taxis had to dodge the police. “We cannot stay home and wait three weeks to be granted a PDP. We are forced to be on the road and drive without one. That is when the police give us traffic fines. That is why you find taxi drivers running away from the police. Sometimes we cause accidents while we are running away from them. We have families to feed and three weeks is a long period waiting. The municipality must sort this out,” said the driver.
He said drivers would continue with the strike until their demands were met.
Njilo said he had sent a team to speak to the drivers. He said the courts, not the municipality, decided on the fines to be imposed.
“We are attending to the matter. The team will listen to their demands. Residents were complaining that there are no police in Pietermaritzburg. Now that police are working, they are complaining,” said Njilo.
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