How one word sparked the Western Cape taxi strike

Taxi operators are on strike over the format of its pre-elective conference which was expected to be held on August 6. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Taxi operators are on strike over the format of its pre-elective conference which was expected to be held on August 6. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Cape Town taxi operators are currently on strike over increasing fuel prices, a lack of leadership, route invasions and — according to the minibus taxi industry task team (MTITT) — the use of the word “indaba” to describe their pre-elective conference.

Taxi operators are on strike over the format of its pre-elective conference which was expected to be held on August 6.

Although the MTITT — consisting of the Congress Organisation of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) —  was told by the Western Cape High Court that it could hold a meeting on August 6, there seems to be concern over whether the meeting was an indaba or a pre-elective conference.

This confusion on whether it is an indaba or pre-elective conference is alleged to be the reason behind the task team calling for a strike on Monday morning.

The Western Cape government has called on the task team to withdraw its strike action, saying it is addressing the concerns raised by the MTITT, and its grievances against the national taxi association umbrella body, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco).

In the lead-up to the strike, the task team requested that the Western Cape government and transport MEC Donald Grant facilitate a mediation process between MTITT and the executive of Santaco.

According to the task team’s spokesperson Besuthu Ndungane, the MTITT is simply calling for free and fair elections.

“We are crying for provincial leadership. Currently the minibus taxi industry is sitting with no leadership: Leadership to advocate for the interests of the operators, and insuring the operators will be able to provide safe and reliable public transport in the Western Cape Province,” Ndungane told radio station Cape Talk.

According to Ndungane, the task team wanted to hold a pre-elective conference which will define the terms of reference on how the regional and provincial elections will be conducted on August 14.

However, the meeting has been referred to as an indaba — a discussion, conference.

Retired Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Ian Farlam led the mediation which looked at constitutional processes and the election of new leadership.

In a statement, Grant said Farlam “delivered a legal opinion that provided necessary clarity on the issues raised and both parties agreed that the mediation process was conducted freely and fairly”.

However, the task team took Farlam’s recommendations to the Western Cape High Court to obtain a declaratory order on June 6 2018 — which saw Santaco announce the dates for the regional and provincial council elections.

A date for an “indaba” was also announced.

Farlam was approached by both Grant, the task team and Santaco to advise on the “correct interpretation of the judgment”.

Grant said that on July 30, he met with executive members and the president of Santaco, Philip Taaibosch, to confirm their joint commitment to free and fair elections.

Santaco was also requested to meet with both the Codeta and the Cata to “convey Judge Farlam’s advice”, Grant noted in his statement.

“We are still open to engage but we will not waver at all in our demands,” Ndungane said. “We are not holding our customers to ransom”

It has not been confirmed how long the strike will last. Ndungane said he has called on the department of transport to intervene.

Taxi commuters were not the only travellers affected by the taxi strike on Monday morning. MyCiti bus commuters were also affected, News24 reported.

Earlier this morning, several busses and private cars were torched. But MTITT has said that it cannot take responsibility for an act that it did not know how it happened.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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