The City of Johannesburg was forcing its bus rapid transit system on the taxi industry, the United Taxi Association Forum (Utaf) said on Friday.
“There’s a stay-away due to the insistence of the City of Jo’burg to continue with its BRT system. They want to use our routes, which are our intellectual property,” said Utaf spokesperson Ralph Jones.
He said the city was clamping down on illegal taxis as a means to further the BRT system.
The negotiations between the taxi industry and the city, he said, had no effect as the decision makers in the local municipality were not part of these talks.
“We have been negotiating with the city but they are sending us administration people, people with no mandate.”
Utaf members were staging a stay-away on Friday in opposition to the expansion of the BRT system.
The city will add smaller buses to feed into the main BRT routes on Monday.
Johannesburg metro police said that only a small number of taxis were operating in Orange Farm, Freedom Park, Eldorado Park and certain parts of Soweto.
‘We are touched by the taxi strike’
The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Dlangezwa Mvelase said his party empathised with members of Utaf.
“We, the IFP, are very touched by the taxi strike. This mess can be attributed to the ruling party. The BRT system is a way for government to take away business from taxi owners,” said Mvelase.
He said the ruling party had gone back on its word during electioneering when it promised the taxi industry that it would address their concerns about the BRT system.
“This [the BRT expansion] makes it clear that the ruling party is imposing its decision on the people. Taxi industry should unite and fight for their business.”
The SA National Taxi Council distanced itself from the taxi strike.
“[We] wish to record that nothing regarding its planning nor its purpose has been communicated with the national leadership,” the organisation said in a statement.
It said that some associations were embarking on a strike with their own motives without informing structures of the taxi industry.
Mayoral committee member for transport Rehana Moosajee said it was regrettable that Utaf and its member organisations had chosen to abandon talks.
“We believe that it is unfortunate that Utaf and its affiliates have chosen to leave talks with the City of Jo’burg and embark on an action that creates inconvenience for commuters,” she said in an SMS.
The city, she said, would continue with the expansion of the feeder system.
Utaf said its stay-away would continue indefinitely until the city approached it with a proposal.
Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said by their action, the striking organisation was infringing on the rights of commuters.
“As government, we will not compromise the rights of commuter,” he said in a statement.
“In conjunction with provinces and municipalities we have long been engaging and will continue to engage with taxi industry.
However, the mandate of the Department of Transport is to provide safe, efficient and reliable public transport,” Ndebele said. – Sapa