Here’s why the National Taxi Alliance is shutting down Pretoria

On Wednesday morning, the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) embarked on a taxi strike, shutting down roads in Pretoria as they marched to the department of transport offices and the Union Buildings. The organisation wants the government to address a number of grievances. The Daily Vox rounds up.

The strike caused disruptions in Soweto, Dobsonville, Roodepoort, Leratong and Soshanguve, with matric pupils in particular concerned that they would not make it to their exam venues in time to write final exams. Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi, assured parents that provisions would be made by educators and schools for pupils to write any assessments they may miss because of the march.

According to NTA secretary, Themba Mbhense, the march was initially supposed to take place on October 19, but was postponed after NTA officials engaged with government officials on October 16 to discuss their grievances.

The department of transport had agreed to discuss the NTA’s grievances, grievances which Mbhense said they’ve had for decades. “We have a lot of problems that started a long time ago and government doesn’t want to resolve them.”

Mbhense and taxi drivers who are members of the NTA feel as if government isn’t taking them seriously. “Government has done nothing to show us that they’re serious about dealing with the transport that carries the most people in South Africa. They’re acting like we don’t play a big part.”

The NTA, an alliance of independent taxi associations, wants to be officially recognised by government as a legitimate body. Mbhense said the NTA is larger than the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) but is still not recognised.

The organisation met with Gauteng Premier David Makhura last year at the Standard Bank Arena and another follow up meeting in Midrand where government “played hide and seek”. “Till today, they haven’t done anything,” he said.

Spokesperson of the NTA, Theo Malele, said on CapeTalk on 7 November that NTA officials gave the minister of transport an ultimatum that its members would embark on the protest march within 14 days if he did not honour the agreement reached at that meeting. However, he said they did not hear back from the minister and resolved on 31 October that the protest would take place.

Members government to begin distributing the permits that authorise taxis to carry passengers from Bara Taxi Rank, Soweto, to various areas. Mbhense said if their vehicles are pulled over and the drivers fail to produce this permit, the taxi is impounded. “We’ve applied for these permits but government doesn’t want to give us these permits and then they’re also the ones that come and arrest us for not having them.”

Taxi owners are also calling for an increase in the amount of money they get for turning in old vehicles for scrapping, under the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme. “We can’t pay a deposit for taxis with the money we get from the scrapping,” Mbhense said. The cost of a new taxi is around R120 000 but government gives them R84 000 for scrapping their old vehicles, he said.

They also want the department of transport to either build dedicated lanes for taxis or allow them to drive in the dedicated bus lanes. Mbhense said giving buses their own lanes gives them an unfair advantage in the public transport industry. “Why are they given a dedicated lane and I have to drive in traffic while we’re transporting the very same people as them?”

The introduction of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill, which puts demerit points on a driver’s licence for every traffic violation, will adversely affect taxi owners. Mbhense explained that all the taxis he owns are registered under his name, not the drivers’. If they get fines a demerit goes on his licence in the system. Within six months, Mbhense said, he won’t have a licence. “We think government is very unfair because we were never properly consulted regarding this, or given the chance to provide comment.”

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This story and headline were updated on 8 November 2017 to reflect recent developments.