Counting the cost — economic fears set in after five days of Western Cape taxi strike
Western Cape business owners are feeling the pinch as the taxi drivers’ strike in the province continued for the fifth consecutive day on Monday. There are also concerns about the impact of the strike on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable.
In Cape Town’s northern suburbs, in a mini-supermarket, sat Ishmael, who did not provide his last name. He runs the store on Parow’s Voortrekker Road, a key transport node. On Monday, when Daily Maverick visited his store, there were only three people inside.
“It has affected my profit so badly,” he said about the strike.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Day 5 – Two people killed in two incidents near airport as Western Cape taxi strike continues
“There is no one coming at all right now because of the ongoing taxi strike. My income has suffered greatly as a result of this strike. This is unacceptable because we are all just trying to survive.”
Another Cape Town entrepreneur, Phumlani Mantanga, started his business in a bid to pay off his student debt, but now his clients are asking for refunds as he cannot deliver items such as bags, shoes and sunglasses.
Mantanga, who is based in Nyanga, the scene of some of Monday’s violence, said his stock was kept at a warehouse and drivers were not comfortable delivering goods in violence hotspots.
“It’s affecting me a lot as this is how I make a living. I’m unable to get my stock delivered because the drivers are scared of where I stay, and I cannot deliver the items to their owners. Some are cancelling, some want refunds. It’s really affecting me negatively,” Mantanga said.
In Gardens, Cape Town, several shops did not open, citing the taxi strike and concerns for the safety of workers. In one shopping mall, several shops closed early so workers who managed to get to work on Monday morning could get home.
‘Imperative that the economy stays open’
Georgina Maree, the spokesperson for Mireille Wenger, the Western Cape MEC for finance and economic opportunities, told Daily Maverick: “While we don’t yet know the full impact on the economy, we know that many citizens have been denied the opportunity to travel to and from work, which has led to businesses not being able to operate at full capacity or having to close their doors over this time.”
She said it was “deeply concerning” to the provincial government that the “livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our communities are at risk because of the ongoing strike action. During these difficult economic times, it is imperative that the economy stays open for business, creating the jobs our citizens need.”
On Monday, several flights were delayed at Cape Town International Airport after taxi drivers blocked Airport Approach Road, which leads into the airport.
#TaxiStrike UPDATE: Passengers are advised that operations are currently normal. Due to a few road closures, passengers are advised to arrive 4 hours earlier for International flights and 2 hours earlier for domestic flights. Follow @CityofCTAlerts for up to date traffic alerts.
— Cape Town Airport (@capetownint) August 7, 2023
When Daily Maverick visited the airport, a dense fog hung over the area and visibility was very poor from Robert Sobukwe Road entering the airport. There was a strong police presence.
Hundreds of people stood in the FlySafair queue for more than an hour. Some missed their flights, but declined to speak to Daily Maverick. The FlySafair counter had 16 desks available for check-in, but only four staff at the desks while two others asked customers in the queue whose flights were urgent.
At the Emirates queue, Michael Laerke (57) from Denmark was with his family. He had no issues getting to the airport in the morning.
“We took a lift through an agency from the CBD this morning and the driver took us through back roads all the way to the airport. The last part we drove in a convoy with other vehicles,” Laerke said.
Detrimental, regretful and avoidable
Derryn Brigg, the deputy president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “The taxi strike is detrimental, regretful and avoidable. At the outset, we want to make it clear that the chamber condemns violence, lawlessness and damage to property.”
Brigg said the issues were “complex and multifaceted. In our opinion, almost nobody gains from the current situation. Not Santaco [South African National Taxi Council], nor government, nor business, nor the citizenry.
“What we can all agree on is the need for safe and affordable transport to get to work. Our businesses and their staff keep the economy going. The economy needs to keep going to put money in the pockets of citizens and get food on the table.”
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for stakeholders to “recognise the taxi industry is key to our current mobility solution, recognise that the industry needs to work better and operate within the law, appreciate that the industry cannot make these changes alone and that it needs public sector support and [to] calm down and engage in constructive dialogue to resolve differences,” Brigg said.
“We also wish to commend the premier, MEC of mobility, mayor and their respective teams, as well as the leaders of Santaco, for continuing to engage in dialogue over the past few days, to resolve the differences in a manner that is in the best interest of our citizens.” DM