/ 11 August 2023

Taxi council and Cape Town agree to end eight-day taxi strike

Taxi's Dv
The country’s taxi industry aims to register its own security company and to work in collaboration with the police and the private security sector (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) agreed to the Western Cape government’s proposal to release a warning notice for strike action at least 36 hours in advance as the former called off a destructive eight-day strike late Thursday night. 

The parties also agreed that the taxi council would not announce a strike in the middle of a working day — as happened last week, forcing thousands of commuters to find alternative transport or walk home. 

Announcing the end of the crippling and often violent Santaco strike over the impounding of members’ vehicles, the taxi council’s provincial chairperson, Mandla Hermanus, said in a statement: “I am pleased to announce that as part of the resolution reached between the taxi industry and the government, there is an agreement that the next 14 days will be utilised to work towards the release of the vehicles that were wrongly impounded.”

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde welcomed the agreement, while Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said he was pleased for the “destructive taxi strike” to be over while saying the prolonged protest could have been prevented. 

“It bears noting that Santaco [on Thursday] accepted the same proposal that the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government originally put on the table last Friday,” Hill-Lewis said.

“The tragic implication is that all of the violence, the deplorable loss of life, and the damage to property and to our local economy — was for naught. Last Friday, everything agreed to was on the table when the strike was less than 24 hours old, and could have been stopped then.”

On 3 August, Santaco said its members would embark on a seven-day strike to protest what it described as the unfair impoundment of minibus taxis under the city’s traffic by-laws.

Over the past year, the city has impounded 6 245 minibus taxis. The city said all taxis had been impounded for offences under the National Land Transport Act.

The agreement between Santaco and the provincial government includes the following: 

  • After withdrawing its participation from the minibus taxi task team — an initiative aimed at addressing permit barriers and other grievances in the Western Cape —  Santaco agreed to participate again; 
  • Impoundments under the National Land Transportation Act (NLTA) will continue for vehicles driving without an operating licence, or on the incorrect route, or without a driver’s licence, or which are not roadworthy;
  • The taxi task team will further define a list, within 14 days, of additional major offences in terms of which vehicles will continue to be impounded in future; and 
  • The task team will similarly compile an agreed-upon list of minor offences, which do not have commuter safety implications, and which will not be impoundable. If Santaco believes that any of their taxis have been impounded for these minor offences, it can produce the relevant impoundment notices to the city for further consideration.  

The task team also introduced a “dispute escalation and resolution clause” that will escalate disputes directly to the premier and mayoral offices before a strike is called. 

Winde said: “We must return to the negotiating table and continue with the critical work that we started in February this year.

“Many of the issues raised by the industry should be dealt with there. These are complex matters. They will take significant time to resolve, but the Western Cape government, with all our partners, is committed to resolving them.”

On Friday, Cape Town slowly returned to normal operations after the calling off of the strike, which, on Monday, prevented teachers and more than 280 000 learners from going to school because of violence or no transport. 

The premier told a media briefing on Friday that schools would be fully operational by next Monday. Community clinics were also reopening after about nine had to close because of the violence th accompanied the strike.