On Wednesday hundreds of taxi drivers gathered outside Tshwane House to deliver a memorandum of their demand to the MMC for Roads and Transport, Sheila Senkubuge. The strike, which started in the wee hours of the morning, found commuters stranded and traffic backed up around the capital city. By ORATENG LEPODISE.
“I hate being stranded. I do not understand why people want to be above the law and inconvenience us because they do not want to pay for tickets. We all know that taxi drivers never follow the law and act as if these roads belong to them,” said Refilwe Moremi, a frustrated commuter who relies on taxis to get to work.
On Wednesday, Moremi, along with hundreds of other taxi commuters, had to find an alternative way to get to work after taxi drivers embarked on an unprotected strike, calling for their infringement fines to be cancelled as outstanding payments were preventing them from renewing their drivers’ licences or professional drivers’ permits.
The protesting drivers claimed the infringements were not directly related to them personally and they do not see why they should be penalised.
The transgressions they referred to included fines for unroadworthy vehicles, loading or offloading areas not designated for public transport, and having no operating licences.
They demanded that the fines be attributed to the owners of the taxis while relating to loading and offloading passengers should be scrapped as the municipalities had not designated spots for them to use.
“We do not have pick-up points but buses have pick-up points, A Re Yeng has its own road and pick-up stops it operates in, so I cannot be fined for something that is not my fault,” said Xoli Chabalala, one of the taxi drivers.
“Let us start afresh, delete the tickets so that we can start from the beginning,” Chabalala said.
Before reaching the city centre, the drivers blocked roads in Mabopane, Ga-Rankuwa, Soshanguve and the Mabopane highway.
News24 reported that the protest escalated in Bremer Street just off the Mabopane highway where drivers armed with sticks and rocks smashed car windows resulting in panicked motorists forcing their way through the traffic in a bid to escape the chaos.
Once in the city, the drivers handed a memorandum over to the Tshwane Metro Council.
The taxi drivers’ demands are:
- Unconditional scrapping of all traffic fines;
- The immediate release of all Tshwane taxi drivers in prison for traffic-related offences;
- An investigation around the conduct of traffic officers;
- An investigation to probe corruption and collusion that allegedly involves some municipal court officials;
- The identification and provision of pick-up and drop-off throughout the city, and identification of land for purposes of holding stations in the Central Business District (CBD);
- To be allowed to use BRT facilities in the city;
- To be respected and treated the same as all road users.
This protest action follows one in July when the drivers demanded that the City of Tshwane cancel all traffic fines issued to them by traffic officers as the fines were preventing them from renewing their drivers’ licences or professional drivers’ permits which grant them permission to operate in the city.
“We are expected to pay fines that are the sum of two cars… We are just trying to make ends meet for our families. We have children and wives who count on us, so they should just cancel the tickets,” said one of the taxi drivers who asked to remain anonymous.
MMC for Transport with the Tshwane Metro, Sheila Senkubuge, who accepted the drivers’ memorandum, said the metro could not scrap infringements.
“The concern about scrapping the fines completely is that we will set a precedent. We will start with the taxi drivers, and what about the other users of the road, and then the problem we will be left with is that everyone will feel like, irrespective of the rules being broken, no fines should be given,” said Senkubuge. DM
Photo: Commuters were stranded in Pretoria as taxi drivers gathered outside Tshwane House. Photo: Orateng Lepodise.