Taxis were cashing in on the absence of buses on the streets of Pretoria yesterday as bus operators went on strike, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
Taxi driver Tiyani Madoda, who operates on the Marabastad (Pretoria West) to Mamelodi (Pretoria East) route, said the absence of buses meant more money for the taxi operators.
“This is business my brother,” he said. “We are working and is it bad if we make more money? Let the bus drivers strike.”
In Mamelodi, some motorists complained that they were intimidated by taxi drivers when they wanted to give lifts to stranded commuters.
“Why can’t I take a few passengers in my car?” said one motorist.
“We are intimidated by taxi drivers when we ferry these stranded people. Is it a crime to help out our fellow community members?
“Why do taxi drivers have to enforce the law – if it’s a law?”
Other motorists alleged that they had been attacked for giving lifts to colleagues or relatives.
Drivers in the bus sector affiliated to the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union downed tools and embarked on a national strike after wage negotiations with employer bodies, the Commuter Bus Employers’ Organisation and the South African Bus Employers’ Association, reached a deadlock.
The drivers are demanding a 12% wage increase, while the employers are offering 7%.
Despite the allegations of intimidation, the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) and the Gauteng Traffic Police said there had been no reports of violence related to the strike by midday.
“It is very quiet,” said Sibanda spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba.
“No incidents have been reported to us thus far. Commuters were flocking to taxi ranks this morning with no incidents.
“We will continue to monitor situations in townships and along the freeways of Tshwane.”
Gauteng Traffic Police’s Busaphi Nxumalo said she had heard of a number of motorists carrying stranded commuters being intimidated.
“At the moment it’s a peaceful strike,” said Nxumalo.
“There has been nothing reported. But I heard people reporting on a radio station that they were stopped by the taxi [association] squad car and told they don’t have permission to convey people for payment.”
Earlier, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande appealed to all parties involved in the negotiations to urgently reach a settlement.
In a statement, Nzimande said the parties involved must find a solution inspired by a common desire to make the bus industry a reliable, attractive and safe public transport mode.
“The only reasonable outcome that government expects from the negotiations is the immediate resumption of bus operations, while labour and employers are finding a permanent solution to the impasse,” he said.
Nzimande said he was keeping an eye on the negotiations.
– African News Agency