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By Lunga Simelane

Journalist


Taxi bosses force drivers to ignore rules, analysts say

The taxi industry is a money-making machine for its bosses.


As the taxi strike in the Western Cape entered its seventh day on Wednesday, violence was expected to continue because taxi operators and owners believe they are above the law, according to analysts.

The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) declared a one-week provincial shutdown last Thursday, supposed to end today, after failing to resolve various issues with Cape Town authorities, with Police Minister Bheki Cele saying people must “swallow their pride, come together and resolve this issue”.

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Five people have died amid the violence, with 10 Golden Arrow buses torched and several incidents of looting, stone throwing and vandalism reported.

Cele called for cooperation between the City of Cape Town and taxi operators as the city had indicated it would not be part of negotiations if the violence did not stop, and reiterated its call on Santaco to “return peacefully” to the negotiation table.

“And everybody must come down on their high horse. Everybody must swallow their pride and stop being arrogant. This is happening, not at the expense of those who are refusing to resolve the matter; it is an ordinary black child who can’t go to school,” said Cele.

Taxis owned by politicians?

Political analyst Goodenough Mashego said government needed to start providing public transport as taxis and buses were privately owned.

He said government paid salaries for public schools and hospitals, but was not providing public transport – which by law, it should be.

“But I think the bigger picture here should be – who owns these private entities providing public transport? I wouldn’t be surprised if I found they are actually owned by some of the politicians. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the top police people own taxis.

“So, there will not be any real policy when it comes to people of Santaco or how some of their members behave, or even issues that pertains to arrests being made.”

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Condemning the violence and saying government was “deeply concerned”, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has called for the release of impounded taxis.

She noted that the National Land Transport Act (NLTA) 2009 – which prescribed when one could impound taxis – was not abided by, saying the city introduced sanctions which didn’t exist.

Mashego said Chinkunga’s remarks did not help and she was not aware of the laws which empowered the Western Cape.

“The Cape Town mayor was correct in saying the law they are implementing is related to National Road Traffic Act (NRTA). That is not a bylaw.”

‘Money-making machine’

Crime expert Johan Burger said although the minibus taxi industry was a key component of the economy – and would remain so for many years – it was obvious the associations were in competition for business.

Burger said the taxi industry was a money-making machine for its bosses and has led to pressures on drivers to overload and to make as many trips as possible between the points they serve.

“This forces taxi drivers to ignore the basic rules of the road. As a result, we regularly see taxis ignoring traffic lights and other road signs, ignoring maximum speed limits, driving in the oncoming lane and outright reckless driving,” he said.

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Burger added that the strikes were nothing less than a form blackmail to force the authorities into making an exception for one particular type of road user, the taxis, and allowing them to ignore the road traffic act and other basic rules of the road.

Santaco Western Cape first deputy chair Nceba Enge denied that Santaco did not want to abide by laws, saying there was a clear distinction between the NLTA and the NRTA.

“Only three things that are appointed as impounded offences are under the NLTA. “And the city, what they’ve done is to take offences which are under NRTA and combine them,” he said.