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Day 8 – Santaco accepts Cape Town mayor’s invitation back to negotiating table as taxi strike is extended

Day 8 – Santaco accepts Cape Town mayor’s invitation back to negotiating table as taxi strike is extended
Minister General Bheki Cele shakes hands with Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis after a press briefing about the ongoing taxi strike in Cape Town on 8 August 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis had invited Santaco back to the negotiating table today after 48 hours without violent strike incidents. This came after the taxi council announced on Wednesday that the strike would continue while it pursued legal action against the City. The impact has left 850,000 pupils being forced to stay home on Tuesday, with 92 schools closing due to safety concerns or low attendance.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has announced that he has invited Santaco for a discussion scheduled for Thursday afternoon. He had said over the past few days that he would not hold talks with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) if the violence continued. 

“Following 48 hours without incident in Cape Town, and a peaceful morning traffic peak today, premier (Alan) Winde and I have invited Santaco for a discussion at 12pm. We hope they will engage constructively to end the strike. We also continue to protect buses and now also food trucks.” 

*After initially declining the invitation, Ryno Saaiers, the General Secretary of Santaco made a U-turn and said Santaco would in fact honour the invite.  “I can confirm that I delegation are attending the said meeting at 13h00, confirming the Santaco commitment to resolve the issues around our vehicles being impounded and ending of the stay away.”

Winde and Western Cape minister of mobility Ricardo Mackenzie met National Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga and Hill-Lewis on Wednesday to discuss how to work together as different spheres of government and bring an end to the strike.

Mackenzie has requested an urgent meeting with Santaco today to discuss key issues. “We are committed to resolving the challenges facing the minibus taxi sector. These are complex issues that will take time to resolve. But we can only overcome them if we work together in the interests of our citizens,” he said.

Santaco said on Wednesday that it had engaged lawyers to apply for an urgent order releasing all vehicles that have been impounded by the City of Cape Town, as well as an interdict preventing the City and the Western Cape Mobility Department from impounding any more vehicles until ongoing matters have been resolved.

Santaco said the application would be lodged within 48 hours of its announcement, and that the strike would continue until the process was complete. Santaco appealed to its members to “be patient” during this time.

“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,” it said.

After the announcement of the continuation of the strike, violence erupted in Langa where a car was burnt not far from the taxi rank. A resident, Sima Matiwane, reported that, “at this point, everyone is going crazy”.

Violence in another hotspot, Nyanga, has calmed since Tuesday, with private traffic in the area proceeding smoothly. Residents have been able to shop for essential goods at the local Pick n Pay next to the taxi rank.

The taxi strike has attracted a global audience, with Sky News reporting on it after it emerged that a British man on holiday in South Africa had been killed during the violence. The news had reportedly reached the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Two people killed in two incidents near airport as Western Cape taxi strike continues

Read more in Daily Maverick: Counting the cost – economic fears set in after five days of Western Cape taxi strike

Premier Winde expressed deep disappointment in the wake of Santaco’s announcement that the strike would continue.

“The poor are suffering the most due to this strike and each day that it drags on is a major setback to them. The impact has been devastating on them and our economy,” said Winde.

The fact is that Santaco’s minibus taxi strike is destroying teaching and learning in the Western Cape.

He added that it was of utmost importance that residents were allowed to move freely in the province, and highlighted the importance of residents being able to access critical services such as healthcare, schooling and social development. 

“The violence that has accompanied the strike and severe disruptions to daily life are an affront to the dignity and rights of our residents,” he said.

Keeping schools open 

According to David Maynier, the provincial minister of education, more than 850,000 pupils had to stay home on Tuesday, 8 August, and 92 schools were closed due to safety concerns or low attendance. More than 17,000 staff members were unable to reach schools because of the strike.

“The fact is that Santaco’s minibus taxi strike is destroying teaching and learning in the Western Cape. Our children need to be in class learning, and Santaco is stopping this from happening,” said Maynier.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi strike impact — Matric learners threatened at rank, almost half a million blocked from Western Cape schools

Maynier said his commitment was to keep schools open where it was safe to do so, not only as places of learning but also for safety and nutritional support.

“Decisions to close selected schools will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and the school in question will inform parents. We simply cannot afford to compromise our children’s futures by losing any more teaching and learning time in the Western Cape,” he said.

Golden Arrow Bus Services had aimed to operate as normally as possible on Thursday, but after monitoring the situation it announced that “services are running but not at full capacity”.

Food insecurity 

Food insecurity is a great concern for those living in hotspot areas as the ongoing violence limits their mobility. The looting of malls in Philippi, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu on Tuesday resulted in a total shutdown of malls in those areas.

Yola Schalk, a young mom residing in Philippi, is afraid of running out of food for her family, especially for her five-month-old daughter, since she does not trust the quality of goods at the corner store.

taxi strike

Woolworths at the Engen garage in Gardens, Cape Town, had no stock due to the taxi strike on 9 August 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“It’s not the quality of the same products that we buy at big shopping malls. You will find that it does not look 100% the same. The packaging has been fiddled with and the taste is not the same too,” Schalk said.

To go longer without needing to refill her monthly stock of essential goods, Schalk has been taking steps such as making homemade bread and cutting down on milk and meat.

Many businesses have reduced their business hours or have closed while the strike continues, including Rands, one of Khayelitsha’s most popular hangout spots.

taxi strike extended

The City of Cape Town noted Santaco’s intention to continue the strike and announced it would “prioritise the protection of commuters and public safety in general, including escorts for public transport and frontline services staff”.

Safety escorts will be extended to food delivery trucks in communities, within available resources, according to the City. It has also reached out to nonprofit organisations Gift of the Givers and Heal our Land, which have agreed to provide food relief to communities struggling because of the strike. The City’s disaster relief teams will be working with the nonprofits to coordinate efforts.

Hill-Lewis urged Santaco to “end the siege this stayaway has placed on especially the most vulnerable communities in our city”. DM

This article was updated at 1.10pm after Santaco confirmed that it would in fact accept the invitation to resume talks. It had initially said it would not be attending. 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I suppose this mamparra Saaiers will try to blame everyone else but his organisation for the current ridiculous situation. Hopefully the affected public will realise that he has absolutely no interest in their interests, but basically wants to attempt to prove his power over the whole of the Cape. And to want an interdict to put dangerously unroadworthy vehicles – or drivers, or both – back on the road is just madness. Which part(s) of the law didn’t he understand (along of course with that idiot of a ‘Transport Minister’) and does he seriously think any judge will allow it/them to be ignored?

    • Cape Doctor says:

      You are fully entitled to your point of view, and many Safricans probably agree with you. But referring to people as “idiots” and “mamparas” just fuels the anger which has already led to so much unnecessary misery. You could make your point just as well without the name-calling.

    • David McCormick says:

      Mr Saaiers has to defend SANTACO and its volatile members – that is his role. At least The City and SANTACO are back negotiating the matter. Hopefully a settlement that is beneficial to taxi commuters and other road users can be reached as many taxi drivers do not abide by the law, and any improvement in this regards would be welcome.
      It is disappointing that the Minister of Transport is spreading false information by (apparently) stating that the City is not permitted by law to impound taxis. Her statement is as bad as JP Smith (apparently) stating that 20 taxi’s will be impounded for every vehicle that is burnt by the strikers.

  • R S says:

    If only SANTACO had chosen the legal route before the strike… but violence is always the first option it seems.

    Also, the city has deeper pockets than the taxi owners. The taxi industry is hurting itself and poor people more than anyone else.

  • Tim Price says:

    I suspect their famous High Court application was pronounced dead in the water by their lawyers so they realized that talking was their only option . That said, if Dali Mpofu had been on brief, they would be running to court guns blazing, with the inevitable loss and costs award against them.

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