Taxis bring Eastern Cape cities to a halt

Dispute over permits results in blocked roads and school closures

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Photo of taxis blocking road
Roads in East London and Port Elizabeth were blocked by taxis today. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Eastern Cape taxis have started an indefinite strike causing chaos for commuters, learners, workers and businesses. The shutdown started early today and has affected many sectors of the economy. Roads in Port Elizabeth and East London were blocked with taxis and burning tyres.

The taxi associations decided to withdraw their vehicles from transporting commuters because they accuse the MEC for Transport, Weziwe Tikana, of sitting on their operating permits. The taxi bosses allege that the police and traffic cops issue them with fines, and impound their vehicles if found without a valid permit.

They are expected to hand a petition to Premier Phumulo Masualle in Bisho today.

Taxi associations addressed a press conference yesterday in Port Elizabeth where they vented their anger at Tikana.

Government and taxis contradict one another

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) regional chairman, Mbewana Matomane, said, “On several occasions we have tried to reason with Tikana. She stopped issuing [permits] after it was already agreed that every member must have one. Our members get arrested or fined by the traffic cops and our vehicles are not allowed to transport commuters.” He said traffic cops sometimes impound the offending taxis.

Santaco provincial secretary, Siyanda Mbanjwa said, “There will be no transport in the entire province. There are 94 taxi organisations in the Eastern Cape and none of them have received permits. We have written a letter to the MEC and told her as such. We don’t know why she is not giving us our operating permits while 60% of the market is transported by us”

Uncedo Taxi Association chairman, Nceba Nono was also angry.”Tikana was supposed to issue us with permits within 60 days but issued the last authorised travelling documents in February 2015.”

EC Cape department of Transport spokesperson Ncedo Kumbaca dismissed the taxi bosses’s allegations.”These allegations are not true. We do assist them with licences.” He said he would respond further after reading the petition.

Schools and businesses unable to operate

Meanwhile Port Elizabeth’s bus service company, The Algoa Bus Company, has withdrawn its buses. Company CEO, Sicelo Duze apologised to passengers, saying, “This is a responsible decision for the safety of our passengers, employees and our assets.”

The police advised delivery companies to avoid townships. In East London, the police released a list of 14 road closures this morning, and said that the “list is growing”.

Schools, busy with their mid-year examinations, are also affected. Education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima issued a statement urging principals to be vigilant and to make responsible decisions. He said, “We have sent a circular to all school principals to first make a determination and postpone examinations for another day. For those who use scholar transport, they must assess the situation first to avoid exposing the school children to any dangers.”

George Chirume is a Motherwell resident and in grade 12 at Paterson High School. “As much as we want our education, it is not safe to go to school when there is this uncertainty. We hope the taxi associations and the MEC will reach an agreement soon.”

Another Motherwell resident, Lulama Masuku, works as a panel beater in North End, Port Elizabeth. “Today is payday. I get my salary in cash because I don’t have a bank account. How will I go to town when taxis have closed all entry and exit points?”

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TOPICS:  Government Transport

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