By GroundUp Reporter
The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) was joined by other taxi associations as they took to the streets of Ekurhuleni in protest on Tuesday over the delayed bus rapid transport system.
Messages had been circulated on social media platforms and on WhatsApp telling commuters that taxis would be hard to find.
Previous strikes led by SANTACO have degenerated into violence with taxi drivers intimidating motorists and commuters and using their vehicles to blockade highways.
From as early as 5am, police were on high alert on the R21 and R24 to OR Tambo International Airport. Armoured police vehicles and metro police towtrucks could be seen at interchanges ready to remove any taxi blockade.
The highways for the most part remained clear. Ekurhuleni metro police spokesperson Kobeli Mokheseng said the N3 was partially affected with taxi drivers moving slowly and holding up traffic.
Germiston taxi rank was the meeting point for the start of the protest march. Santaco’s BJ Mahlangu said that protesters would be marching to the office of Mayor Mzwandile Masina where they would demand his resignation.
The protest relates to the delayed implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Mahlangu said that the taxi industry was fully behind the project as it benefited them. The taxi association wanted the mayor to answer why after six years of work the BRT was still not fully operational.
“We have contacted the mayor and his team on countless occasions and he has failed to engage us meaningfully. We believe he is not up to the job of being mayor and are calling for his removal immediately,” said Mahlangu.
A lack of proper infrastructure at the Germiston taxi rank and other ranks in Ekurhuleni was also a concern SANTACO raised in its memorandum. The memo also called for the City Manager to be removed. It threatens to disrupt transport services if the removals do not take place within the next 30 days.
Taxi drivers marched through the Germiston CBD towards the Germiston Civic Centre, where they handed over the memo. Police fenced off the building with barbed wire while a police helicopter watched over proceedings from above.
The memo was received by Councillor Petrus Mabunda, Mayco Member for Transport Planning. He said the delay in the implementation of the bus rapid transport system was due to a delay in the completion of the infrastructure. He denied that the City had been inefficient in its implementation but instead talked about how it was waiting for relevant documents such as the environmental impact assessment. He also blamed service providers for poor workmanship on some of the incomplete bus stations.
Leaders of the taxi association said that they would give the municipality 30 days to get back to them with workable solutions. Failure on the part of the municipality would result in a further intensification of the taxi strike action.
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