The overwhelming response by commuters to Friday’s early-morning Gauteng Provincial Metered Taxi Council blockade on roads to OR Tambo International Airport was one of anger towards the metered taxi industry as it protested against the e-hailing taxi service, Uber.
People left their vehicles and began walking down the highway in an effort to catch their flights.
South African Airways – which accounts for up to 50% of the traffic at OR Tambo – said on Friday afternoon operations had returned to normal.
On Twitter, metered taxi drivers were lashed for overcharging, rude drivers who didn’t know where to go and old and scrappy vehicles under #TaxiStrike.
“Meter-taxis’ business model needs to change. Entitlement to clients, poor customer service, and techno-phobia is their undoing,” said Thabo Mofokeng.
Thousands of comments went on in similar vein, with the added theme of it being up to commuters where they spent their money.
There was a slight impact on flight operations, albeit short- lived, said SAA’s Tlali Tlali. “A few flights were delayed by up to 15 minutes only. Passengers were accommodated on later flights.”
Airports Company of South Africa noted the impact would be ongoing throughout the day and would affect flights which needed to return to OR Tambo to fetch late passengers.
It recommended people use the Gautrain. But this was jammed with commuters.
Transport industry analyst Paul Browning said the protest had been a long time coming.
“There has been enormous discontent among the metered taxi drivers ever since the arrival of Uber and every now and then, it unfortunately bursts into acts of violence,” said Browning, who suspected that action by coal truckers last week may have set an example for the taxi drivers.
Brown said metered taxis had had the same business model since horse-drawn carriages in the 1860s – standing in one place while people went to them.
“It’s an old-fashioned model and so many new ways of doing things are coming in using available technology. The best thing metered taxis can do is convert their way of doing business,” he advised.
Travel fares from Sandton to OR Tambo:
Meter taxi: R500
– @odirileramafsi (Twitter)