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Santaco gained nothing from taxi strike – instead, everyone lost, mainly the poor, says Cape Town mayor

Santaco gained nothing from taxi strike – instead, everyone lost, mainly the poor, says Cape Town mayor
Hundreds of Cape Town commuters stranded by the taxi strike walk home from the city centre along the N2 on 3 August 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Details of the agreement between Santaco and provincial government officials reveal the eight-day taxi strike that brought Cape Town to a halt could have been avoided if the taxi association had accepted the deal it was offered on the first day.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the SA National Taxi Alliance (Santaco) gained absolutely nothing from its strike across the Western Cape as on Thursday, 10 August, it ended up accepting the same deal it rejected eight days ago.

“The tragic implication is that all of the violence, the deplorable loss of life, and the damage to property and to our local economy — all of it was for nought,” said Hill-Lewis after Santaco announced it would resume operations on Friday.

The mayor shed some light on the agreement that the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government reached with Santaco which led to the provincial taxi strike being called off. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘A great relief’ — Santaco calls off Western Cape taxi strike

According to the deal, impoundments under the National Land Traffic Act (NLTA) will continue for vehicles driving without an operating licence, on the incorrect route, or without a driver’s licence, and for those that are not roadworthy.

“We have agreed that the Taxi Task Team will further define a list, within 14 days, of additional major offences in terms of which vehicles will be impounded,” Hill-Lewis said.

“This will take the form of a standard operating procedure (SOP) on the exercise of the discretionary power provided for in the National Land Transportation Act and would be similar to other SOPs which guide staff in respect to other laws and procedures.”

The mayor said the city would focus on ensuring that traffic transgressions that affected commuter safety remained major offences.

He said the Taxi Task Team would also compile an agreed-upon list of minor offences, which did not have commuter safety implications and that would not result in vehicles being impounded.

“The city continues to believe it will be able to demonstrate to Santaco that we have already been following this distinction for some time,” Hill-Lewis said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape Taxi Strike

“Importantly, if Santaco believes that any of their taxis have been impounded for these minor offences, which we do not believe to be the case, then they can produce the relevant impoundment notices and we will make representations to the Public Prosecutor to support the release of these vehicles.”

According to the mayor, Santaco agreed to never again call a strike during the middle of a working day and would always give at least 36 hours’ notice ahead of planned strike action. 

“We should never see a repeat of thousands of people being forced to walk home again,” he said, adding that the Taxi Task Team would now have a dispute resolution escalation and resolution clause.

“These are the exact same conditions that Santaco needlessly rejected eight days ago. And not a single person gained anything from the violence that ensued. Instead, everyone lost — commuters, taxi drivers and innocent residents of Cape Town,” Hill-Lewis said.

Santaco’s change of heart

On Thursday, the day the agreement was reached, Santaco initially declined the mayor’s invitation to return to the negotiation table after there had been no further major incidents of violence around the city. Later that day, it had a change of heart and decided to continue negotiations.

In a statement announcing the end of the strike, Santaco Western Cape chairperson Mandla Hermanus said: “First and foremost, on behalf of Santaco Western Cape, I convey our sincerest condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives during the stayaway.

“The wellbeing of our community and the public at large has always been our top priority, and it pains us to witness the unnecessary pain and suffering that transpired.”

He said it had been agreed that the next 14 days would be used to work towards the release of the vehicles that had been wrongfully impounded.

Attempts for comment from Santaco on why it took this long to accept the deal that had been offered to them more than a week ago were unsuccessful.

The violence and disruption disproportionately affected working-class commuters, but the unrest drew international attention this week, with Sky News reporting that a British man holidaying in South Africa had been killed during the violence. Five deaths directly related to the strike were recorded.

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

‘Violence won’t extract concessions from Cape Town’

Hill-Lewis said Cape Town had set an important precedent for South Africa’s future by steadfastly refusing to capitulate to violence and anarchy.

“Cape Town has not conceded an inch on our commitment to the rule of law,” he said.

“The message is clear: in Cape Town, the laws of this country apply equally to everyone and violence will not extract a single concession from this government.”

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said he was relieved that the strike was over and that it dragged on for far too long, with residents, particularly the poor, worst affected.

“We endured an especially difficult time in finding a resolution. We will now work with Santaco-WC through meaningful engagement to resolve the complex and long-standing issues that the industry faces.” 

Winde said it was unacceptable that five people had been killed during the strike and that buses, private vehicles and property had been attacked, roads blocked and residents cut off from services such as healthcare and education.

“We must now repair our partnership with the taxi industry. This must be done through meaningful engagement with the interests and, more importantly, the safety and dignity of commuters front of mind,” the premier said.

“We must return to the negotiating table and continue with the critical work that we started in February this year through the Minibus Taxi Task Team. Many of the issues raised by the industry should be dealt with there. These are complex matters. They will take significant time to resolve, but the Western Cape government, with all our partners, is committed to resolving them.”

ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary Neville Delport also welcomed the cessation of the deadly strike.

“We hope for a speedy return to normalcy of socioeconomic activity, especially for the poor and working class now that passengers will be able to utilise minibus taxis. Other road users will also be safer returning to the roads,” he said.

“The ANC will be closely following the ongoing negotiations and resolutions of outstanding issues over the next 14 days.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Elmarie Dennis says:

    Imagine if the ANC could learn from this. The rule of law should never be compromised. I applaud everyone that came to the table to solve this crisis. “I see Gods Hands in this. God bless our beautiful country.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Let us all hope that a permanent lesson has been learnt by all, not least the ruling ANC in all it’s various guises, and the EFF, that violence, the threat of violence, achieves nothing, destroys much and creates and leaves scars that take generations to heal.

    We are all South Africans; we are all in this together, and we all sink or swim together.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    This is an example of a union dictating to its members with the result that union members loose out, as it’s a no-win situation. The UK went through the same union turmoil in the 1970’s, with the then government not giving in to union demands. The result was the loss of many industries to overseas competition and mass unemployment. Unless the SA government takes a similar stance against unruly unions, we are heading in the same direction.

  • James Miller says:

    Congratulations Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, on not bending to the thuggish behavior of Santaco. Many of us have been holding our breath for this outcome, which does set an all too uncommon precedent of upholding the law in the face of threat and violence. Whatever the price, and it was high, was necessary to pay, because the alternative would have been unaffordable.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Are we going to get a public apology from the Minister of Transport for her part of this dismal saga.

  • Wendy Dewberry says:

    In my mind there was a gain and that was the glaring unrefutable truth of the low level of consideration that the Taxi industry has for its clients and the lack of excersise the govt has over the thuggish violence it dishes out on innocent people.

    Peoples eyes have been opened.

  • Francois Smith says:

    Minister Cele in the Hat, some comment from you? Are you not supposed to install and maintain law and order?

  • David Mark says:

    This is what a working government applying the law looks like! Well done DA!

  • Stefano M says:

    Can someone please explain why they need 14 days to check impounded vehicles and why a new list of 20 rules needs to be drawn up? What about the highly contested application of the bylaws. Why not accept that some form of compromise had to be reached.

  • André van Niekerk says:

    After all the noise, I just wonder about the role of taxi-owners. They remain behind the scene, with the organisation being the public face. The drivers are hungry-for-work individuals who get minimal pay, their pay dependend on driving as many trips as possible. Hence the driving on the shoulder, pushing into ad out of traffic. Owners should be responsible for the unlicensed drivers, non-roadworthy vehicles, etc.
    Maybe a bylaw could be created which makes it compulsory for the taxi-owner to be identified on the license. Much like anouncing donors to political parties. Time to name and shame.
    It would make very interseting reading to see who owns multiple taxis, and is pushing there agendas.

  • Carol Stewart says:

    Dear ANC. You see? It is possible. You just have to show leadership. Ask GHL – I’m sure he’d be happy to help…

  • MARIANE ROUX says:

    Just a comment about the British Doctor who was shot in front of his wife and child in Nyanga when they took the wrong turn off from the airport – Cape Town should give the road signs a rethink to make them more clear to incoming visitors from overseas or other South Africans from different parts of the country not going to Cape Town often, as we had the same experience a few years back ending up in Nyanga with no idea how to get to Cape Town
    These occurrences can be prevented with clear road signs indicating a clear and safe way to Cape Town

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    So sad that lives were lost because the chaotic, useless union ‘leadership’ thought that trashing a city would bulldoze their agenda through. It’s high time that strict monitoring devices were attached to all public transport vehicles – speed governors, driver behaviour, monitoring, compulsory seatbelts, annual roadworthy tests etc. If anything is tampered with, the owner simply forfeits the vehicle, simple. They did this in Kenya about 10 or 12 years ago, where the driver was fined if passengers didn’t wear seatbelts or overloaded – when I told my driver that it wouldn’t work here, because the taxis would riot, he replied that they did in Kenya too, but that the “army gave them a damned good hiding.” Don’t know if they still enforce it, but it would be a good start.

    I’d also like to see all major roads in all our cities fitted with cameras on robots, not just for taxis, but for every selfish idiot who thinks they’ve got a god-given right to drive down emergency lanes or turning only lanes and cut in at the front of the queue. Would provide enough income to fix every pothole in Joburg in a week, assuming our city government could be bothered.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    With love from Santaco: (we bring joy just like Santa)

    Yes, we will fight to ensure our owners and drivers can ignore the rules of the road and continue to criminally destroy other cheaper more effective competition, making sure there is less, more dangerous, and more expensive transport for all of Cape Town’s citizens.

    Yes, more will die, but the good news is we’ll make more money, so stop moaning.

    Oh, and by the way, we’re really sorry for any inconvenience our fight causes, or the crippling effect on businesses and the resulting loss of jobs for everyone.

    No I mean it, we’re really very sorry.

  • Jagdish Makan says:

    I agree with Marian Roux re the road signs, they must be improved urgently. People cannot die or be mugged for taking the wrong turn, what sort of deranged person is that who takes an innocent life with no consequences? Surveillance cameras must be installed in these hot spots.
    I appeal to the Mayor, if he has not done so already, to please set up a task force to hunt down, apprehend and prosecute these barbarians. There is no other term for these low life’s. Thanks Mr Mayor for taking a stand against these taxi thugs. The rule of law must apply to all, no exceptions.
    Bhekhi meeting with the taxi bosses behind closed doors, the minister of transport making frivolous statements, this corrupt ANC is not fit to govern.

  • Roy Haines says:

    I sincerely hope that the City of Cape Town’s stance against the mini-bus taxi industry will give other municipalities the courage to stand up to them and control the ever-worsening lawlessness that the taxis perpetrate.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    “The ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary Neville Delport will be closely following the ongoing negotiations and resolutions of outstanding issues over the next 14 days”
    Missing was the statement from the National Minister of Transport that as a lessons learnt the ANC would ensure that the respect of the rule of law was applied to the Taxi industry in the ANC governed Provinces in the interests of commuter safety.

  • Deonbrand says:

    Participants in the taxi industry need to receive livable wages. This while government officials who are indirectly being paid for by these participants (and other taxpayers) receive incomes above an affordable level for these taxpayers. This deprives the ability of the fiscus to address the fundamental issue. Government officials negotiating with the taxi industry should also think introspective to achieve sustainable solutions. Talking down to people experiencing poverty without empathy should also be considered.

  • Luan Nel says:

    Most glaring was how the ANC, through the minister of transport and the minister of police, swooped down to help trim and resolve nothing. Cele accused the local government of “arrogance” in a response he had crip notes for. Watching him come down and save the day only showed the ANC’s arrogance and cynicism.

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