Taxi drivers return to the road as commuters urge associations, govt to reach a deal

Taxis parked outside Bree taxi rank in Johannesburg, 22 June 2020, during a strike over government's R1.135 billion relief fund. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

On Tuesday morning, the streets of Soweto were abuzz with minibus taxis going around doing business.

Taxi drivers across Gauteng returned to their steering wheels on Tuesday after spending Monday on the streets protesting over government’s Covid-19 relief grant and efforts to support their businesses.

Gauteng taxi operators affiliated to the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) went on strike demanding R20,000 per vehicle from the government instead of the proposed R5,000, which equates to more than R1.1 billion.

Operators claim they have lost income as a result of parts of the economy not being allowed to operate.

Owners and drivers say they have struggled to save their vehicles from being repossessed.

Some passengers left their homes earlier than usual, fearing the strike would continue on Tuesday.

Among those making their way to work were Tebogo Molefe and her friend Katlego Motaung.

The pair joined a long queue at the Rea Vaya bus station near Thokoza Park in Soweto. Molefe said she left her home an hour earlier.

“I thought there won’t be any taxis working today. Yesterday, I arrived late at work because there were no taxis to ferry us. I thought that their strike will continue today as many people had claimed.

“I am here to catch a bus because they are not on strike and are reliable for now,” Molefe said.

Motaung said she also left her house earlier to catch a bus.

“Rea Vaya is much more reliable at this stage because they are not on strike. The only problem is that the queue is long because buses are only allowed to carry a certain number of passengers.

“From next week, I am returning to the taxi. I hope that government and the taxi bosses resolve their issues. There must be a quick solution because we rely on taxis to carry us to work daily,” Motaung said.

Taxi driver Sifiso Mdletshe said they have suspended their strike to assist desperate passengers.

Mdletshe said they were still waiting for the transport department to meet with their leaders to address the issue of the money wanted by their bosses.

“As drivers, we are not making any profit because of the impacts of Covid-19. We are only allowed to carry a limited number of passengers. We plead with government to listen to our pleas,” Mdletshe said.

Another driver, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they have postponed their strike to allow their associations to meet with government.

He promised that if there was no solution to their problem, they might strike again. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is set to meet taxi association bosses on Wednesday.

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