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Taxi strike – Some facts on how big the industry is, how much drivers make and the role in crime

Taxi strike – Some facts on how big the industry is, how much drivers make and the role in crime
Many shops across Cape Town had no bread on the shelves due to the taxi strike. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

The public transport system has been brought to a halt for more than a week since the minibus taxi industry in the Western Cape went on strike. Here are some facts.


Taxis are responsible for about 75% of public transport in the province and transport about one million passengers daily, according to the Western Cape Department of Mobility. They are also responsible for serving areas that are not often covered by other public transport.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Day 8 – Santaco accepts Cape Town mayor’s invitation back to negotiating table as taxi strike is extended

There are probably about 1,200 taxi associations nationally but they fall under two main umbrella organisations: South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and National Taxi Alliance (NTA).

Santaco is leading the strike.

Santaco consists of over 123,000 individual taxi operators belonging to more than 950 minibus taxi associations nationally, according to court papers it recently submitted to the Cape high court. It is much bigger than the NTA. In an interview on Cape Talk, an NTA spokesperson said the organisation stands in solidarity with Santaco during the strike.

Taxis need an operating licence to provide a public transport service. These licences are regulated and approved by Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs). Santaco said in its recent court papers that in order to apply for this licence, a letter of recommendation from a taxi association was required. And to join an association can cost between R10,000 to R200,000. (We’re not sure what differentiates the price across different associations.) In this way, a taxi operator must first be part of an association in order to access a route and an operating licence.

Precise data on how much the industry earns and spends is hard to come by. But this is what we could find:

The taxi industry generates at least R100-billion per year, according to a 2021 report by the Competition Commission. “These vehicles travel approximately 19 billion kilometres a year, and the most commonly used models are the Toyota Quantum Ses’fikile, followed by Nissan Impendulo. Most of these vehicles have a carting capacity of between 13 to 16 passengers,” says the same report.

In September 2022, former Western Cape MEC for Transport and Public Works Bonginkosi Madikizela said that in the Western Cape, the minibus taxi industry makes about R1.5-million per day, compared to R240,000 for Golden Arrow Bus Services and R35,000 for the MyCiTi bus service.

According to Associate Professor Andrew Kerr of the UCT School of Economics, over the past few years, there are likely between 15,000 and 20,000 taxi drivers in Cape Town. There are about 200,000 to 250,000 drivers nationally, so Cape Town is between 7% and 10% of the national total.

According to the Department of Transport discussion document from September 2020, of the 200,000 minibus taxis about 63,000 to 100,000 are operating illegally, i.e. without an operating license.

The Western Cape taxi strike has also left thousands of taxi drivers without an income for over a week. Income differs depending on the day and the route. One taxi owner and driver who spoke to us anonymously told us that their usual target is between R800 and R1,000 daily. He drives the routes from Wynberg, Mitchells Plain, and Grassy Park. But he said that drivers who drive to the Cape Town CBD make better money with a target of about R1,000 and R1,200.

The driver pays his “gaatjie” (sliding door operator) between R150 and R250 depending on the day and petrol is R700 and R800 per day. On a bad day there is no take-home cash for the driver.

He bought his taxi secondhand for R120,000 and he can’t afford insurance. He said that you make more money the days following payday, and less income from about the 5th of the month until the next payday.

Violence frequently flares between those affiliated with Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), two of the biggest taxi associations in the Western Cape. (Both belong to Santaco.)

In its 2021/22 annual report, the Western Cape government said that violence in the minibus taxi industry was “at a record high” and bus services continued to be under regular attack.

The Western Cape government indicated that between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, 110 taxi-related murders and 71 attempted murders were reported to the Department of Transport and Public Works. One of these murders included the president of Cata, Victor Wiwi.

A report from the Global Initiative Transnational Organised Crime estimated that nationally, half of all organised hits between 2015 and 2020 were related to the taxi industry.

Other forms of public transport, most recently Golden Arrow buses, have long experienced resistance from the taxi industry. Since Thursday, 10 Golden Arrow Buses have been torched.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Judge grants City of Cape Town urgent interdict against taxi council to ‘stop this madness

The taxi industry has been accused of sabotaging Cape Town’s other public transport, MyCiTi and Metrorail, for years. In 2017, following a taxi strike believed to be about an internal Santaco conflict, several MyCiti and Golden Arrow buses were stoned and set alight.

In August 2018, MyCiTi suspended its services in Khayelitsha after three of their buses and two MyCiTi buses were attacked. Later that year, nine MyCiTi buses were petrol-bombed, causing R22-million worth of damage. A MyCiTi station and two buses were torched in June 2020.

Golden Arrow reduced their services in 2021 after a driver was shot on the N2.

In 2022, a taxi driver convicted of setting Metrorail trains alight, admitted that he earns more when trains are not in use. Two trains at Cape Town station were set alight in 2019, causing R33-million of damage.

Between 2013 and 2019, 214 train carriages were torched nationwide. Cape Town’s Metrorail infrastructure shrunk from 90 carriages in 2015 to just 44 in 2018. The vast majority of these train attacks were in the Western Cape. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Wanliss says:

    Much better, DM! Looking forward to hearing about the rumoured “impounding” of private vehicles used in lift clubs, interference with the transport of school children, the cost of a taxi fare compared to train or bus fare, the number of My Citi bus stations that have been destroyed and how often these have been rebuilt, the attacks on inter-city busses, the (lack of) progress made by the police in apprehending the criminals who set the trains on fire, and more.
    One comment: Getting people to work and back is important, but the human transport industry doesn’t make anything. The figures quoted are for money that changes hands, out of the pockets of commuters and into the pockets of the transport providers. Given the degree to which cheaper alternative transport is sabotaged, these huge amounts should be a matter of shame rather than pride.

  • Francois Smith says:

    Then who makes the money?

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Taxi bosses are terrorists

  • Jonathan Gill says:

    Thanks for the information. Are their statistics related to the deaths and injuries caused by poorly maintained taxis per year, out of interest? Any stats on insurance claims, or RAF claims, for accidents?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Some interesting stats – thank you.

  • Roland Gemmell says:

    A real study of the taxi industry should be done.
    If a taxi seats 16 passengers and earns an income of R60 per seat, their total income is R960 – assuming this is for “the day”. The taxi then spends R800 on petrol buying approx 32 litres (at R25/litre). At 8km’s per litre the taxi does approx 240 km per day, which is 8 trips from Khayelitsha to CT CBD (30km) – 4 trips each way, assuming you travel empty on the return leg to pickup another taxi load of passengers. Am I right in then saying the taxi is only charging R15 per passenger per trip – this does not sound right.

  • John Cartwright says:

    Taxi associations complain that rail and bus services are privileged and serviced in way that they aren’t. However, they refuse to accept the degree of proper regulation experienced by rail and bus. Moreover, the purchase of new minibus taxis appears to be subsidised – this needs investigating. After all, they can’t have it both ways. At the ‘taxi-lords’ level, criminality is rife, and the government is reluctant to take them on.

  • Michael Britton says:

    The numbers do not gel. The article says “In September 2022, former Western Cape MEC for Transport and Public Works Bonginkosi Madikizela said that in the Western Cape, the minibus taxi industry makes about R1.5-million per day”
    In the next paragraph, “Associate Professor Andrew Kerr of the UCT School of Economics, over the past few years, there are likely between 15,000 and 20,000 taxi drivers in Cape Town”
    The article goes on to quote “One taxi owner and driver who spoke to us anonymously” said “their usual target is between R800 and R1,000 daily”.
    So, 15,000 drivers x R800 (using the lowest sets of figures) = R12 million per day. How does this tie in to Bonginkosi Madikizela’s statement that they make R1.5 million per day. Sounds like that should be R15 million per day.
    So, with 15,000 drivers turning over R900 per day working a 26 day month,the Cape Town taxi industry turns over 4.68 billion per annum. Are you listening, Mr Taxman?Areyou seeing your share?

    • Ben Harper says:

      There’s a difference between revenue and profit. The may well well generate 12 to 15 Million per day but they “make” i.e. their take-home is only 1.5 million per pay.

      Basic economics chap

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