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