Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says that he has always “displayed utmost respect” when engaging with members of the National Taxi Alliance (NTA), who went on strike on Wednesday.
Mbalula was replying to a tweet in which Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu tagged him.
The tweet was of a media report about how the NTA had reportedly said it would not be deceived by “a small boy”, referencing Mbalula.
Responding to the tweet, Mbalula questioned the relevance of his age to the matter at hand and said he had always engaged with members of the NTA in a respectful manner.
“Yesterday they [chose] to play the man,” the minister tweeted.
Ke e bone ,I dont kno where does age issues come in ,I’ ve displayed utmost repect for the Nta people in all my engagements with them ,Yesterday they chise to play the man.
— Minister of Transport |Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile) November 19, 2020
Meanwhile, the DA has called on Mbalula, “to step off Twitter and pay full attention to his department”, and address challenges in the taxi industry, in particular “the processing of the Covid-19 relief funds” meant to assist the industry.
This after the NTA halted the operations of taxis on Wednesday in a strike highlighting their dissatisfaction over government allegedly not paying the taxi industry more R1.135 billion in relief funds initially offered in June.
The DA’s Thamsanqa Mabhena said the party condemned the “violence and intimidation towards private citizens” during the taxi strike on Wednesday.
“We are particularly disturbed by images and video clips on social media depicting what seems like taxi marshals intimidating and damaging private properties such as cars. There have also been reports of passengers being kicked out of buses and a Tshwane Metro bus driver being intimidated with violence which resulted in the city halting all bus operations.
“There was absolutely no reason why the strike could not have been peaceful and that the protest action be carried out without intimidation, damage to private property and violence.
“The NTA should take full responsibility for the members’ actions and we urge law enforcement agencies to hold them to account,” Mabhena said.
On Wednesday, NTA president Francis Masitsa, however, denied allegations that NTA members assaulted a City of Tshwane bus driver and later hijacked the vehicle.
Mabhena said Wednesday’s “thuggery” was “a culmination of the government’s inefficiency as it relates to the taxi industry and total failure to fully regulate, formalse and modernise the industry”.
Mabhena said the taxi industry was “one of the backbones transporting” the country’s workforce and “keeping the economy active”.
“And while we must never allow a situation in which the industry attempts to hold the economy to ransom, government and minister Mbalula have to come to the table and ensure the efficient and regulated operation of his industry.”
Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu