Taxi strike called off

A nationwide strike by the taxi industry planned for Monday will no longer take place, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said on Friday.

“There will be no strike,” Santaco secretary general Phillip Taaibosch said after the High Court in Pretoria ruled against an urgent application by the taxi industry to prevent the launch of the Bus Rapid Transport system.

After hearing arguments, Judge Willie Seriti said he was not convinced that Santaco had made a case for urgency and dismissed its application with costs.

The BRT system will be launched on Sunday and will begin running on August 31 between Soweto and Johannesburg.

It has raised the ire of taxi bosses, who feel it threatens their livelihood.

Arguing for Santaco, Gys Rautenbach said the industry had realised only on August 17 that the government planned to implement BRT even though negotiations were under way in the national joint working group.

Legal teams for the government and the City of Johannesburg, argued that the “urgency was of their [Santaco’s] own making”.

They submitted that Santaco’s contention that violence could erupt if the government went ahead with its plans was a separate issue and not one to be dealt with when deliberating urgency.

Speaking outside court, Santaco president Arthur Mthembu said he thought the government had been “genuine” when it said it would delay implementation until the industry had been properly consulted.

“At the end of the day there’s been double-dealing,” he said.

Mthembu said members would meet on Sunday to decide on a course of action. Passive resistance was a possibility.

“In that one, it does not need to be met with the might of the law,” he said.

However, taxi owners expressed frustration as they left the court, and maintained that they would still be striking.

“If we get killed, if the commuters get killed, so be it,” one man said loudly while leaving court.

Earlier, a group of protesters gathered peacefully outside the court to show their support for the taxi industry.

Waving placards reading: “No to the BRT”, the group was quick to anger when a lawyer shouted: “Viva BRT”.

He was chased away by the crowd, which threatened to kill him before he being whisked to safety by the police.

The industry complains that the government asked them to register their routes, then placed the new bus system on those routes without consulting them.

They also argue that the bus system will inevitably be cheaper than taxis and they will lose their passengers and their livelihoods.

The government is adamant that implementation will go ahead as scheduled.

Following the Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting on Wednesday, the government warned the taxi industry that it will push ahead with the implementation of the system.

The first phase of BRT will be implemented in four cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria—starting with Johannesburg.

Should the trial run prove successful, the BRT system is expected to cover 1 400km across the country by 2025. - Sapa

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