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INNER-CITY STANDOFF

Taxi strike begins immediately across Western Cape, ranks emptied over by-law clash with City

Taxi strike begins immediately across Western Cape, ranks emptied over by-law clash with City
Taxi drivers in the Cape Town CBD on 1 August 2023 when taxi drivers and law enforcement officials clashed after several minibuses were impounded. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

A taxi strike has been called immediately in the Western Cape, the South African National Taxi Council has announced. Eight regional associations met in Makhaza, Cape Town, on Thursday to deliberate on the current tensions between the industry and the City of Cape Town.

Santaco Western Cape chairperson Mandla Hermanus said it was better for their vehicles to be pulled out of all the ranks in the province than being impounded by officials. 

The move comes after tension between City of Cape Town officials and taxi operators soared on Wednesday when a taxi driver was shot by a traffic official.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Chaos, arson and threats of legal action after Cape taxi drivers begin strike

“Santaco has resolved that our vehicles should be pulled from all the ranks wherever they are in the province this afternoon and be parked at homes until the 9th.” 

Tensions between the City of Cape Town and taxi operators have been simmering over a new by-law that gives power to the municipality to impound vehicles rather than fining drivers for offences such as not displaying registration plates, being unlicensed, overloading and failure to stop when instructed to do so by an officer.

Western Cape taxi strike

Taxi drivers in the Cape Town CBD on 1 August 2023 when taxi drivers and law enforcement officials clashed over over the impounding of minibuses. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

The violence on Monday prompted Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga to “strongly” discourage and condemn “any form of violence from all parties involved in dealing with this impasse”.

The minister “recognises the vital role” of the taxi industry, but “resorting to violence and acts of aggression not only undermines the rule of law but also jeopardises the safety and well-being of passengers, law enforcement officials, and innocent bystanders”.

Chikunga urged “all stakeholders to work together and find common ground, without resorting to violence, in order to speedily address the challenges faced in the taxi industry”, and called on the taxi industry “to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations governing their operations”.

During Thursday’s meeting, Hermanus said the City of Cape Town has no intention of forming a working relationship with the taxi industry. He said they do not support the breaking of the law but accused the municipality of trying to stop the industry from operating at all. 

An officer was allegedly assaulted during a standoff between law enforcement and taxi drivers as taxis were impounded in the City of Cape Town on 1 August 2023. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

“If a driver breaks the law, why is the taxi getting impounded? The driver is the offender, now as a taxi owner I lose my vehicle when they should have fined a driver.” 

Taxi associations from across the province were asked to vote on when the strike should begin, and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) voted that it begin immediately (Thursday). Other responses include:

  • The Two Oceans taxi association said it should have started on Wednesday;
  • The Mitchells Plain association said said it supported the strike;
  • The Northern region said it must start immediately;
  • The Boland region supported the stayaway, saying it was ready;
  • The Greater Cape Town region said the strike should start immediately after Thursday’s meeting; and
  • The Eden region (Plettenberg Bay, George, Knysna, Beaufort West) supports the strike.

Word of the strike spread swiftly, and by lunch time on Thursday the taxi rank at Cape Town Station was closing down, as police maintained a presence. The rank in Masiphumelele too was emptying.

By 4pm, there were no more taxis at the rank and commuters rushed to a nearby bus station to get buses home. Bus company Golden Arrow had asked for patience as traffic caused delays on all major routes.

Roads that were affected on Thursday include:

  • The N2 inbound was closed at Jakes Gerwel Drive.
  • The N2 outbound was closed at the M5. Motorists travelling on the N2 were being diverted on to the M5 southbound.
  • Jakes Gerwel Drive was closed between the R300 and Govan Mbeki Road.
  • Jakes Gerwel Drive was closed at Bluegum in a northerly direction.

All the affected roads were reported to have been reopened on Thursday night.

The strike will last until 9 August, Santaco said. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Like our obnoxious government and the blue light brigade, the taxis, bar a few exceptions, think they are above the law and everybody must kowtow to them. They are rude, aggressive, bullying, display total lawlessness on the road and expect total impunity. Whilst they are key in the transportation industry, they don’t own it or the country. Law and order must be applied without fear or favour irrespective!

    • Berthold Alheit says:

      Fully agree

    • Alan Cargill says:

      As a motorcyclist, I find taxis far less scary than many car drivers. Taxi drivers are aware of what is happening around them. Unlike most cars, they see me coming and move over a few inches to let me nip by. Instead of frothing at the mouth like many car drivers.
      Nor do I see them driving on their cell phone like 50% of wild and completely lawless car drivers. Yes, we all decide which laws apply to us.
      Next time a taxi gives you a squeeze, consider that he has 20 passengers and represents 20 single occupancy BMW/Merc/whatever other vehicle you are sitting in and getting all worked up.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        I find your Yes A is bad, but B is worse argument to somehow justify the behaviour of A completely ridiculous.

        It is obvious that all law breakers should be punished. ie. both A and B.

      • Steve Davidson says:

        Judging by the way most (yes, most) of you motorcyclists drive, you’re in the same grade as many taxi drivers, so please STFU and learn how to drive within the real laws, not the ones you make up to suit yourselves.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Yes – without *enforced* rule of law South Africa is doomed. It is time that all of us citizens backed our city in making it a better safer place for everyone and for their children.

      Taxi associations: It is not good enough to say “we agree with the the rule of law”, but do absolutely nothing to make sure your members comply. It would take a complete idiot not to realise you are standing there blatantly lying; you aren’t fooling anyone.

  • Brian Algar says:

    I feel for the commuters who are stuck in the middle of this saga, but it’s high time the taxi thugs are brought under control. Stick to your guns COCT, and hopefully the law-abiding populace and businesses will also support you and cut the commuters some slack over the next few days. Maybe the taxi owners can impress upon their drivers, who they are responsible for, to obey the laws of the road to prevent their taxi’s being impounded. Obey the laws and you wont have any trouble.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    These people are breaking the law. Finish and klaar. If the rest of us have to obey it, why can’t they. I think honest drivers are getting totally gatvol with their shenanigans, both the way they drive and the unsafe nature of their vehicles. Impound the lot of them – they have no right to ‘protest’ about being ‘discriminated’ against when it’s their own damn fault!

  • Bill Gild says:

    Law and order is, sadly, a foreign concept to the ANC/SACP.
    Blocking one of the two major highways (the N2) (if what I have read is correct) outbound from CT constitutes yet another step toward anarchy and chaos in SA.
    Direct foreign investment into yet another failing African state will naturally decline even further. The exodus of young, skilled South Africans will continue to escalate.
    What a mess the ANC/SACP has made to SA!

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Incompetent,cant abide by rules

  • Annemarie Hendrikz says:

    Hermanus makes a valid point when he asks why a vehicle is impounded when it’s the driver at fault – which is different from taking an unsafe un-roadworthy vehicle off the road. Why not ask the taxi associations what they think would be an effective way to deal with the few rogue drivers? and how owners can be encouraged to lessen performance pressure on drivers. How are commuters supposed to cope without this essential form of transport?

    • Brad McWalter says:

      Maybe hurting the taxi owner will force them to actually vet their drivers first, just like other employers who don’t think they’re above the law already do. I don’t think Hermanus makes a valid point at all.

    • Karen Hewson says:

      I had to chuckle at your comment ‘a few rogue drivers’, have you driven throughout Cape Town and the suburbs lately?

      The questions are whether the drivers actually pay the fines and what happens if they don’t or are repeat offenders?

      Why should the taxi owner be off the hook if he doesn’t hire licensed drivers who abide by the law? Do the owners actually fire the ‘rogue’ offenders? I doubt it.

      Other companies fire law breaking employees, why have a different standard for the taxi owner?

      We need accountability. Problem is those in the wrong will just double down, blame and deflect anytime they have to face their own contribution to the problem.

    • Paddy Ross says:

      It is not only a few rogue drivers but several drivers/taxi owners who owe a huge backlog of fines but expect to be allowed to continue driving/operating taxis. If they paid their fines and drove only roadworthy licensed vehicles, their taxis would not be impounded.

    • Julia Choate says:

      Annemarie, you make an excellent point regarding who actually suffers (commuters, because National and local govt have allowed the privatization of public transport) but Karen Hewson is spot on: the owner of the vehicle cannot abdicate responsibility for the consequences of their actions when they have authorized someone to operate their vehicle (for the purpose of the owner’s profit).

      The onus must be on taxi operators to ensure all their drivers are licensed and operating in a fully compliant manner.

      Just like the rest of us vehicle owners.

    • Samantha Vandersteen says:

      I was going to say the same thing. Unpopular opinion yes, but somewhat unfair to impound a car that does not belong to the offender. I think that the municipality is trying to force the taxi association to in some way “police” their drivers which is actually the job of Metro police. However, I do think that a compromise can be found in the form of a demerit system where if the driver gets 3 strikes then the taxi is impounded. Then at least it gives the owner of the vehicle some time to do what they need to do on their side – maybe even fire the driver instead of risking having their taxi impounded.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Should rename them, Road Hogs Inc.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    When the taxi associations and members:
    1. Pay VAT;
    2. Pay Income Tax;
    3. Engage legally qualified drivers;
    4. Obey traffic riles; and
    5. Stop shooting bus drivers …

    I will believe they have a grievance. Until then, va fa cagare.

  • Stratford Canning says:

    The action of the Taxi industry defies logic. By going on strike, they are hurting themselves as no fares are earned during the strike period.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Something I just learnt on CapeTalk via our excellent mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis is that there is actually an oversupply of taxis at least in Cape Town thus the fares are low and so the drivers have to overload and speed to earn a living wage, while the owners make the money, so it’s poetic justice that they are being the most affected by having their vehicles impounded. He also said that PRASA refuses to do anything constructive in their control of Metrorail such as saying actually what services they are going to supply and signing a document to agree it, rather bulldusting once more I suppose because their lords and masters in the ANC don’t want to be shown up yet again by the DA’s excellent management of the Cape.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    These folks seem to have learned their civics rules at the School of Trump. Commit the crime. Blame the victim. Ugh!

  • Jennifer D says:

    Taxis have been a law unto themselves for the past 30 years. why do they think they can overtake, bully, drive without licenses, drive recklessly with impunity? Its about time COCT took action – they are effectively trying to blackmail us. We need to apply the fundamental rules of law in order to get crime and corruption under control and that starts with making our roads safe from reckless taxi operators.

  • André van Niekerk says:

    This is exactly what happens when you allow lawlessness and impunity over years, and become dependent on such organisation for service delivery. The taxi industry is one of the first and best examples of state capture.
    Eveyone should knuckle down and re-establish lawfull behaviour.

  • Francois Smith says:

    Hey Ramaphosa, please get Prasa to work. Your SG, the de facto Prime Ministah in your cabinet, Fikile Mbaluislang, will have a few ideas on how to do that. He was mos the Ministah of Transport in your cabinet.

  • Mervyn Bennun says:

    The above comments are typical of braaivleis and dinner table wisdom, when the truth is that surprisingly little is known and understood about road safety and traffic offences. It is necessary to take a leaf from the insights gained in a study of commercial transport aviation, which revealed surprising problems which were hiding in plain sight. Addressing them transformed the industry dramatically. We know insufficient about the dynamics of the relationship between taxi drivers and owners. For example, what are the pressures on a driver to take an unsafe or overloaded vehicle onto the road? What is the best way to protect the driver from unscrupulous owners? Are road signs and engineering adequate to discourage bad driving? How do owners control the manner in which their employees drive? If one starts from the assumption that everyone involved would prefer to be safe and law abiding, what are the pressures which make this difficult? What is needed is a commission of enquiry into the entire road transport industry which the prospect of changing its law and practices. If anyone doubts the need for such an enquiry, look at the graphs and statistics by googling “Accident rates and onboard fatalities by year” on the Boeing web site, which covers the entire world fleet regardless of type. Simply by looking for the right answers instead of assuming that we know them, road safety could be improved equally dramatically.

    • Mark Cowell says:

      mebennun, you quote an industry in which owners of aircraft (airlines) take responsibility for the safety of their passengers by ensuring their pilots (taxi drivers) are qualified and hold the correct qualification paperwork at all times; that operate aircraft (taxis) which are FULLY certified and subject to continuous REGULATED maintenance regimes; that operate those aircraft (taxis) within the air laws that are dictated by regulating authorities. Please provide an example of an airline that, when challenged, shut down local highways (air routes), burnt competing airlines aircraft (buses) and started shooting at its regulator. CAPE TOWN SHOULD BE SUPPORTED IN RESISTING THE TAXI GANGSTERS

      • Mervyn Bennun says:

        Mark Cowell, you have missed my point entirely but the fault is probably mine. Sound research methodology requires one to define the problem first, and then to devise methods of collecting data that might shed light on it. I referred to commercial aviation as an example of successful safety research. In commercial transport aviation, the advent of jet engines in the post war years was accompanied by so many crashes that one question which was asked was “Why are so many aircraft, in perfect condition and flown by trained and experienced crews who were normal human beings, making controlled flight into terrain? The problem was so serious that the abbreviation CFIT is used. Merely blaming “pilot error” was unhelpful. Having defined the problem, research methods were established with the dramatic results shown by the statistics — today, literally, the most dangerous part of a journey by air is going to and from the airport. Some of the most important answers were quite surprising. What I am asking for is the same basic research methodology in commercial passenger transport in South Africa. It seems to me that one problem is this: if one assumes that taxi drivers are ordinary humans who would prefer to drive safely and lawfully, what are the pressures against them doing this? If my question is correct, what causes the drivers’ problems? Not enough is known about road traffic in South Africa and criminal justice may not be the best starting point.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          @mebennum I won’t claim to understand the detail of your comments but I can tell you that people die because of the abuse of the law.

          So, if your perspective has merit can I suggest that you approach the city and offer it. I’m sure they will listen and if it has value take it on board because I can assure you this measure is not being taken just to make peoples’ lives difficult.

        • BRADLEY Curnow says:

          What a refreshing reply.

          Unfortunately most commentators here prefer to assume that they already know the answer. And of course anyone who disagrees with their answer is either a cretin or a villain, and in the words of one of the mob should just “STFU”.

          As long as we assume people who disagree with us are “the enemy” all we achieve is to encourage more conflict.

  • Mervyn Bennun says:

    Editor == please correct a typing error:

    which the prospect of changing its law and practices.

    Please change “which” to “with”

  • David Mark says:

    “why are you striking?”
    “Because they want us to comply with the law!”

    Can you get any more idiotic.

  • Philip Machanick says:

    It would be interesting to see stats on the reasons for impoundments.

    If the vehicles concerned are unroadworthy, if I found the right version of the bylaw, the owners are required to organise repairs to bring them up to standard before they can be released.

    If the owners don’t like this approach, what is their alternative? Surely they cannot argue for keeping unroadworthy vehicles on the road?

    If they have a better plan, let’s hear it. Too many people are killed on the roads – we all need to get serious about this and stop treating it as a pissing contest.

  • Ritchie Morris says:

    If taxi owners are business entities should their permits not be linked to a SARS tax compliance certificate which must at all times be current and in the taxi? MOST other businesses need such.

    • Dave Buerger Buerger says:

      The taxi industry is dominated by gangsters who care little for SARS and the like. Furthermore it is abundantly clear that they are responsible for the destruction of rail transport in our Cities. Who else could possibly benefit? Witness the numbers of taxis staging under the Cape Town Foreshore freeway now against the numbers staging there 20 years ago. Enough now to replace trains but definitely not a sustainable solution. I’m totally with clamping down on their operations and criminal tactics.

  • Riel Meynhardt says:

    The City should not bow before these hooligan tactics. Taxi owners laugh at fines, as do their drivers. It is an owners responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is perfectly roadworthy, so he should bear the consequences. If his driver constantly misbehaves as far as safe driving practices are concerned – which most of them do – the best way to ensure discipline is if the owner loses income and the driver then his salary – the owners will become the enforcers of correct behavior.
    If the taxis continue to block roads, they should be confiscated and sold as scrap.

  • rodhering says:

    Stick to your COCT, when they start having their taxis repossessed because they can’t make payments you will find they militant stance will change

  • Ian Steven says:

    Do taxi drivers fall under the employment conditions of minimum wages etc such as the drivers employed by the bus companies and if not why are the Labour laws not applicable to the taxi bussiness owners

  • Andre Louw says:

    On first reading this piece I found the argument persuasive, that it was unjust to impound the vehicle while letting the guilty driver off the hook. Upon reflection I now find it to have merit.
    Removal and impounding of unroadworthy vehicles whether the result of mechanical or personnel (driver) malfunction would appear imho to be just. The onus must be on the owner to ensure that his operating unit (driver and vehicle) provides a safe service to the commuter. The owner will quickly learn that it makes little business sense to employ rogue and unlicensed rivers and ignore mechanical defects such as bald tyres. He or she will also learn that a protracted strike will hit the bottom line. Hang in there COCT.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      The police need to be commended for their bravery in this situation – not that Bheki Cele seems to acknowledge or care – if he does, then why is he so silent when he has been party to the negotiations?

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    Taxis are impounded for being in contravention of national law, not local by-laws. The Western Cape government is simply doing what other “governments” in South Africa are failing to do. Taxis are a scourge on our roads and it is about time someone did something about it.

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