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Western Cape taxi strike extended for two more days despite Santaco’s 9 August end date

Western Cape taxi strike extended for two more days despite Santaco’s 9 August end date
Protesters clash with law enforcement in Masiphumelele informal settlement, Cape Town, during a protest on 8 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The SA National Taxi Council originally said its strike in the Western Cape would end on 9 August. But on that day, the council failed to resolve its dispute with the City of Cape Town and extended its strike by 48 hours.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the Western Cape said its lawyers would apply for an urgent interdict to stop the city and province from impounding any more taxis until the dispute was resolved. It called on taxi operators to withhold their services for another two days.

When Santaco launched its stayaway on 3 August, it said the strike would last for seven days, ending on Wednesday, 9 August.

taxi strike

Protesters block the entrance to Masiphumelele informal settlement in Cape Town with burning tyres and rocks on 8 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

“With this in mind, we appeal to all our members to be patient and allow us to complete this process. The application will be lodged within 48 hours and we will therefore not operate until this process is completed,” said the statement.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause to our commuters and the public at large. We will keep you informed of any further developments.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape taxi strike

Five people have been killed in incidents directly related to the strike, which has left hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded and devastated the province’s economy.

Santaco’s demands

A letter sent by Santaco’s Western Cape chairperson, Mandla Hermanus, to the City of Cape Town MEC for mobility, Ricardo Mackenzie, on Wednesday stated that the taxi strike would continue into Thursday, 10 August if no resolution was reached on the impasse.

The issue of taxis being impounded is central to the strike. Santaco believes taxis are being unfairly targeted under a City of Cape Town by-law that orders vehicles to be impounded for offences that previously resulted in only a fine.

In his letter, Hermanus stated that Santaco was not opposed to the lawful impoundments of vehicles based on the National Land Transport Act (NLTA), which provides for three instances in which vehicles may be impounded:

  • If they are unroadworthy;
  • If they are driven without a valid operating licence; and
  • If they are driven by a driver without a valid licence and professional driving permit.

“Santaco is, however, opposed to the impoundment of vehicles for any other reasons, other than those related to the statutory provisions mentioned above and it has been seen on many occasions where our vehicles have been the target of these enforcement drives instituted by the City of Cape Town and the MMC for Safety, Alderman JP Smith,” Hermanus wrote.

His letter further states that Santaco has consistently called for a moratorium on all impoundments until Santaco, the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town can resolve these issues and find common ground in the operations of law enforcement officers.

taxi strike

The bus station in Bellville, Cape Town was quiet with just one bus on Tuesday, 8 August 2023, day six of the taxi strike. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“Santaco maintains its position to continue with the taxi stayaway until a moratorium has been instituted by the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government, pending the resolution of all outstanding matters at the Minibus Taxi Task Team,” Hermanus wrote.

Ongoing talks

Hermanus and Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis attended a prayer meeting at St George’s Cathedral on Wednesday where they were asked to find solutions.

“In Cape Town, violence will never be tolerated as a negotiating tactic,” Hill-Lewis said.

“We reiterate our call on Santaco to return peacefully to the negotiation table. The city’s traffic by-law was recently amended to extend impoundments to private vehicles for a range of serious offences. All public vehicles continue to be dealt with under the NLTA as always,” he said.

Hill-Lewis said the provincial government had come close to reaching an agreement with Santaco, but the taxi association had then issued new demands. While he did not divulge these, Daily Maverick has established that they include allowing taxis to drive in emergency lanes and allowing drivers to use routes they don’t have permits for.

Daily Maverick asked the mayor whether he had issued a directive to Smith that for every vehicle, truck or bus that was torched, 25 taxis would be impounded.

“Any bus, any city vehicle that is torched or any road that is blocked by minibus taxis, we will impound all of those involved, that was my order,” the mayor said.

“[Smith] correctly reflects my instruction. Those [taxis] that were involved [should be impounded], that is the point I am making.”

Transport minister weighs in

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Sindiswe Chikunga said Cape Town’s new traffic by-law instructs officers to not only issue a fine for minor offences, but also to impound a vehicle, which she said was illegal.

The minister said the city should release all vehicles impounded under the by-law, but only the courts can reverse the municipality’s by-laws. Santaco has already filed papers in court and the matter will be heard in February 2024.

Fireman douse a burning bus during the Cape Town taxi strike

A burnt-out bus and HealthNet taxi on the N2 near Langa, Cape Town, on 3 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Santaco’s first deputy chairperson in the Western Cape, Nceba Enge, told Daily Maverick on Wednesday morning that the taxi industry was being undermined by the municipality and that Santaco could not agree to end the strike while allowing the by-law to stand.

“That is where the impasse is,” Enge said.

“The City of Cape Town, together with the [provincial] Department of Transport are forcing us to sign a document where we will be binding ourselves with offences that are not impoundable in the national act.”

Smith, who is leading the city’s charge on the issue, has denied that the municipality had impounded vehicles under the new traffic by-law, saying taxis had been impounded only under the NLTA.

The city and the Western Cape government have offered to release vehicles from impoundment for minor infringements, but not those impounded for serious offences. The government wants to have more discussions on the issue of permits for new routes.

The government negotiators have also called on Santaco to return to the Minibus Taxi Task Team where discussions are held to find long-lasting solutions to the challenges.

The strike caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to change the venue of his planned keynote Women’s Day address on Wednesday. It was scheduled to take place in Khayelitsha, but Ramaphosa spoke from the Union Buildings in Pretoria. He said the strike was affecting the livelihoods of many people.  DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • frances hardie says:

    The Transport minister’s remarks are disturbing.

    • Ben Harper says:

      The Transport minister’s remarks are no surprise, merely reinforces the incompetence and bias of anc deployed cadres

      • Zamfoot 1 1 says:

        Why is DM not latching on to and calling out Cele the transport minister for what is evidently political BS, which can only be exasperating issues … getting a little tired of this pussy footing Journalism.
        Is the City impounding taxi under the new by law or just the national act … stop printing he said she said rubbish and go get the facts … its not hard. If as Hill says, vehicles are being impounded for breaking National laws, then for god sake, call SANTACO and the ANC out for what would be blatant untruths!!!

  • waleed abrahams says:

    This is pre-election politics at its worst. The national government is using the opportunity to undermine the local city managment. Why was the police minister here last week in direct contact with the taxi association? To what purpose? Meanwhile the citizens in these volatile, taxi reliant communities are paying the price as usual, no work, no food, no school, no chance. History has many examples of similar situations and the fact that the people cannot be contained indefinitely,there will come a time when the bubble will burst, it is simply a question of time.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Is interference by the Minister not prompted by SANTACO as a move to show National Support for the bullying action, as was the presence of Cele at the outset?

  • Denise Smit says:

    The two Ministers are the two deployees of the ANC to try to make chaos in the Western Cape and as much damage as possible to the DA before the elections. We as citizens and law abiding commuters are not blind. Thanks Gordon Hill Lewis for sticking to you guns. Denise Smit

  • Dear Santaco, why strike? Just do the following:
    If they are unroadworthy;
    1. Take the vehicle for a roadworthy, repair what is wrong.
    If they are driven without a valid operating licence; and

    2. Require a valid driver’s license to drive the taxis which cost a lot of money, and will result in less damage and death. See point 1 above.

    If they are driven by a driver without a valid licence and professional driving permit.
    3. Se above points 1 and 2.

    The damage your are causing costs more than point 1 above.

  • jon81 says:

    Is it possible to find out who is telling the truth, so that we can get beyond the political rhetoric, or must we really have to wait for the court trial?

    CoCT says the impounding is only in accordance with national law. SANTACO and national government says the impounding is being done under the new local by-law. Both statements cannot be true.

    If CoCT is telling the truth, then SANTACO has no valid basis for its strike. If either party is willing and able to provide specific evidence to the public for its position then we can get beyond this “he said, she said” childish nonsense. If not then we must wait for this to happen through the court process, which means wasting a lot of time.

    Unfortunately, the “he said, she said” in this situation means people are literally being killed, as well as more serious economic harm being done to the economy, on top of the covid lockdowns. Many, many people are not getting paid and significant numbers of jobs will be lost as businesses struggle or collapse.

    • Willem Boshoff says:

      exactly! it is sloppy journalism if left at this. these are verifiable facts and the all culpability for this disaster hinges on who’s telling the truth.

  • Gail Meyer says:

    Having just moved to CT from KZN where there is no law, it feels like I am living in a different country.
    I truly hope that the authorities in the city stick to the rule of law and do what needs to be done. The Taxi thuggery seems more evident in CT as there are consequences for all traffic and road offences for everyone, the parity is noticeable. KZN no one has consequences and it’s chaos…don’t let it happen here!

  • Sabienne Herbst says:

    Our roads are DANGEROUS!!!
    We plead with our leaders to help us, ALL OF US who daily have to brave potholes, traffic lights without power and dangerous drivers in dangerous vehicles …
    When those in charge of our safety argue on the side of those who break the law, it will inevitably lead to more lawlessness.
    Friends and family living abroad report being extremely careful to obey traffic rules because the consequences of not doing so are extremely severe there.
    If the line Cape Town has finally drawn is casually swept aside, what will become of us all?

  • John Smythe says:

    Any civilised person wouldn’t allow this to deteriorate to this extent.

  • Tim Price says:

    I am looking forward to the threatened High Court application. It will make interesting reading and the result will possibly shock the taxi bosses into reality. They probably haven’t got the result they wanted from the strike so they are now looking at the legal route after a few losses to the City and Golden Arrow already. I suspect they will find little sympathy with the bench.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Someone needs to introduce the concept of Vicarious Liability to the taxi owners

  • I hope the people are aware that the City of Cape Town is not responsible for the strike and did not make Santaco go down this road again, that was Santaco’s decision. Every time Santaco calls for a taxi strike, people die, busses get burnt and there is utter lawlessness. You can’t tell me they are not fully aware of the actions there members as this happens every time they strike. It is time Santaco is held accountable for these actions. Otherwise they are just going to keep on doing the same thing. 1 Bus = R1 000,000 fine, 1 Life = 1 life sentence sounds fair I recon.
    And on another note, how much money is the taxi industry actually loosing if they can afford to strike for this long. hmmm, there must be money coming from somewhere.

  • David Forbes says:

    Strange that no media has reported a radio interview (which I have seen) in which the Mayor said the taxi owners rocked up to a meeting with AK-47s! You can’t negotiate with a gun at your head. WHY are the media hiding this fact? There seems to be some hidden agenda here somewhere, but I don’t know who/what/why it is.

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