July 9 2017– Another crippling strike by disgruntled minibus taxi operators complaining about high repayment rates for their vehicles has been put on hold after a meeting between Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco).
“A meeting was held as part of the commitment we made as government that we will meet with transport industry role players, including the taxi industry, the rail sector, as well as the bus operators to discuss the transformation of this important economic industry which is the cornerstone of economic development,” Maswanganyi told journalists in Pretoria on Sunday.
“Upfront, we would like to indicate that we [Santaco and government] agreed to put on hold the planned strike on July 12, 2017 to allow for further engagement on issues that Santaco brought to the attention of government. Both government and Santaco agreed to work together to confront challenges that the taxi industry continues to experience on a daily basis as clearly articulated in the meeting,” he said.
The meeting was held on Friday as taxi operators threatened to launch another crippling strike following an intensive protest which brought Gauteng freeways and highways to a standstill in June.
Maswanganyi said his interaction with the taxi operators centred around three matters – the taxi subsidy, operating licences, and access to finance.
“In taking the discussions forward, the meeting agreed to establish committees to deal with these issues. The committees will incorporate members of Santaco as well as those from the national and provincial spheres of government,” he said.
“Evidence” showed that minibus taxis were the most preferred mode of transport, accounting for over 68 percent of the daily commuting public.
“It is therefore inevitable that the issue of the subsidy of the industry needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We have noted the address to backlogs at provincial regulatory entities which deal with operating licences. Government has been able to provide legislative requirements of operating licences to ensure that taxi operators are confined to a specific area as opposed to the previous radius-based operations,” Maswanganyi said.
Government was looking forward to a healthy working relationship with the taxi industry, which was often plagued by violence and anarchy.
“We therefore call on you, the taxi industry, to unite against violence, any form of anarchy and criminality in the taxi industry. We call upon the industry to take a stance and expose those few individuals inclined on derailing the country from a good course of providing an affordable, accessible, safe, and sustainable taxi industry,” he said.
Santaco second deputy president Boy Zondi said: “It is us, Santaco, who had called for that mass action that was going to take place on the 12th of July. We have said to the minister it cannot be business as usual anymore in the taxi industry. We have decided to buy takkies because we have realised that boardrooms are not assisting us, as the taxi industry, in addressing our issues.”
The suspension of Wednesday’s strike was a “tentative reprieve”. “We however, said to the minister he is the seventh minister of transport in South Africa that we have had discussions with. Therefore this time we want him and those discussing with him to make sure there will be resolutions quickly that are going to assist the taxi industry. For now, we are assuring the public at large that on the 12th of July there will be no mass action,” Zondi said. – ANA