/ 16 November 2010

Taxi drivers march against traffic demerit system

Taxi Drivers March Against Traffic Demerit System

About 400 taxi drivers protesting against the traffic demerit system converged on the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The march through Pretoria’s central business district briefly halted traffic in the city centre, but the march was peaceful with no reports of violence.

There was a strong police and media presence.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) is demanding that the government withdraws the new licensing system, saying that it would cause their members untold hardship and a loss of jobs.

In a memorandum handed over to an official from President Jacob Zuma’s office, Satawu demanded that the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) legislation be repealed.

It also demanded that all penalties and fines issued under the system, where it is currently operating on a trial basis, be reversed or cancelled.

Satawu also demanded the formulation of a new traffic Bill that is drawn up involving all stakeholders in the road transport industry.

And lastly it also demanded that Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele be reprimanded for forging ahead with Aarto

The Aarto system penalises drivers with demerit points for traffic offences. Once a driver has 12 demerit points, his or her driver’s licence gets suspended for three months. A driver’s licence gets cancelled on the third suspension.

Satawu secretary general Senzo Mahlangu said the union had hoped for a bigger crowd to join the march but there had been some miscommunication between the unions and taxi owners about the march date.

He said Satawu not only represented taxi drivers but all drivers and believed the new system was simply a “punitive revenue-collecting system”.

He said there needed to be more emphasis on education, and drivers who are arrested and charged for traffic offences should be rehabilitated.

“There is no educational element to this. The system is focused on the massive realisation of revenue,” he said.

He said that to blame taxi drivers for the road carnage was unfair because 34% of those who died on South Africa’s roads were pedestrians.

Although the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) had not publicly commented on the new system, he believed that its silence was an indication it was in fact against the new system.

‘The carnage on our roads must stop’
In a statement issued from Cape Town, Ndebele said that the department had engaged with the union and pointed to the fact that there was a meeting between the department and a Satawu delegation last Thursday.

He said that an agreement had been reached by both sides to establish a 10-man panel to “engage” on issues over the new traffic legislation.

“As government we welcome partnerships with various formations, including organised labour, business, the religious community and civil society. The carnage on our roads must stop. It is our children. It is our brothers and sisters. It is our sole breadwinners who are losing life and limb.”

He welcomed Santaco’s decision not to participate in the strike action.

Satawu’s first president, June Dube, told the protesters on the lawns of the Union Buildings that it was also problematic that the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) would be responsible for Aarto, especially since there were allegations of mismanagement and the RTMC chief executive, Ranthoko Rakgoale, was currently suspended.

Tshwane metro police spokesperson Alta Fourie said that the protest went off peacefully without any incidents being reported. — Sapa