Gauteng ‘deplores’ taxi violence

Taxi violence during a protest in Gauteng was deplorable, the Gauteng executive council said on Wednesday.

Discharging firearms, disrupting traffic and attacks on businesses were ”completely unacceptable”, the office of Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile said in a statement after a meeting of the executive council.

”The programme to improve the transport system in Gauteng will not be delayed by these protests,” it read.

”The process will go ahead as planned and as agreed to in the consultation process that has taken place with taxi owners throughout Gauteng.”

Police opened fire on taxi operators with rubber bullets in Johannesburg on Tuesday during a protest in which they blockaded roads and stoned buses and motorists.

Taxi operators were protesting against the introduction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which they fear would steal their business.

‘Cripple the economy’

However, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe told Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday that the government had ”guaranteed” there would be no job losses or decreased profits.

Radebe said the BRT was proceeding unabated and that a prototype had already been constructed at Joubert Park.

Embittered taxi drivers run through the Johannesburg CBD on March 24 in protest at the new bus rapid transport system. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Asked by 702 anchor John Robbie why the taxi organisations were on strike, he replied that they were the best people to answer that question.

To a question of how he could guarantee there would not be any job losses, Radebe said his department had ”done our number crunching” and that during the first year of operation there would be a guaranteed income of R1,5-billion. He said the company operating the BRT would also include taxi operators.

Radebe also criticised the striking drivers for intimidating commuters and removing them from busses and trains.

A taxi driver lets off some steam at a protest rally on March 24. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Meanwhile, at its meeting on Wednesday, the Gauteng executive council also welcomed the passing of laws allowing the reintegration of Merafong into Gauteng.

It agreed that the needs of the people of Merafong had to be immediately assessed.

”A technical task team, led by the department of local government, has been formed to undertake an audit of assets, liabilities, staff and contracts that will have to be transferred from the North West provincial government to the Gauteng government,” Mashatile’s office said.

It said negotiations were proceeding with the Mpumalanga provincial government over the transfer of Ekandustria.

The executive further noted that there had been ”significant challenges” in the economy since 2008. Price and population increases had affected payments incurred as departments tried to accelerate service delivery.

It agreed that payments to small, medium and micro enterprises would be prioritised in March to clear all payment backlogs by the second week of April.

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