Shots have been fired by law enforcement in an attempt to enforce order as taxi operators downed tools on Monday demanding that government reconsider its budget on the relief provided to the taxi sector.
Police and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are on the ground at loggerheads with disgruntled taxi operators. Soldiers have been chasing taxi operators away in Soshanguve after protesting taxi drivers blocked main roads with burning tyres and rocks.
While the Johannesburg Metro Police Department remains on high alert around the city, a measure to monitor today’s events following reports of a possible protest from taxi operators, there appear to be opposing views coming from the taxi union camps.
Over the weekend, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) was alerted by its Gauteng wing that operators planned to shut the province down in response to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s announcement of a large contribution to the sector.
Mbalula announced a R1.135-billion relief fund set aside to assist the taxi sector, following massive financial losses for the sector, a result of the pandemic.
Santaco, who have criticised the amount of the relief fund, said Mbalula deliberately misrepresented the industry when he announced a plan of action during Friday’s briefing, while there were ongoing engagements with taxi bosses.
Labelling Mbalula’s plan as ill-timed, Santaco spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said the transport minister sought to confuse taxi organisations, which could lead to more provinces taking part in the protest action.
On Friday, Santaco’s Thabisho Molelekwa confirmed the union found the billion rand offer to be peanuts. He said the union planned to meet with stakeholders this week, for a way forward which clearly may not materialise following the Gauteng Santaco wing’s heavy-handed U-turn for a shutdown today.
Several operators have blocked roads since 4am on Monday morning. JMPD confirmed a possible protest in Lenasia South as the roadway has been blocked with rocks including burning tyres. Officers are on the scene.
In Mabopane, the SANDF has been in dispute with taxi operators after operators closed of the R80 Mabopane Highway from Shoshanguve direction. The R55 in Olievenhoutbosch, Centurion is also a no-go area due to protest action.
While police remain on high alert, extinguishing the various unsynchronised taxi-operator protests mushrooming across the province, EFF leader Julius Malema has lauded the picket action, saying taxi drivers wanted their taxi ranks improved, including reliable salaries.