Protest ac­tion ‘won’t af­fect’ Cape Town taxi ser­vices

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NOR­MAN CLOETE and ROBIN ADAMS

CAPETO­NI­ANS needn’t worry about any dis­rup­tion to the taxi ser­vice.

The coun­try’s largest taxi as­so­ci­a­tion, San­taco ( South African National Taxi Coun­cil), has moved quickly to al­lay fears of any dis­rup­tion or mass ac­tion, not just in the Cape, but also in KwaZulu-Na­tal where there were vi­o­lent protests.

At the cen­tre of taxi op­er­a­tors’ un­hap­pi­ness is the price of the ve­hi­cle which has be­come the pre­ferred choice, the Toy­ota Quan­tum.

Taxi bosses say the price of the Quan­tum has sky-rock­eted from R220 000 a decade ago, to around R450 000 to­day.

On Wed­nes­day taxi op­er­a­tors from KZN, Gaut­eng, the Free State and the Eastern Cape, blocked roads in Dur­ban, and also sur­rounded Toy­ota’s Prospec­ton plant in Isipingo.

Taxi own­ers and op­er­a­tors threat­ened a shut­down of the plant if Toy­ota did not make the Quan­tum cheaper.

Some taxi driv­ers burnt tyres and threw stones at pass­ing ve­hi­cles.

The protesters handed over a list of de­mands to Toy­ota SA bosses, giv­ing them seven days to re­spond.

San­taco general sec­re­tary Ce­cil Di­bela said they had met the com­pany and are now await­ing a re­sponse.

Toy­ota South Africa spokesper­son Clin­ton Yon con­firmed that San­taco’s list of de­mands were re­ceived.

“We will en­gage with the rel­e­vant groups af­ter eval­u­at­ing the re­quests in the mem­o­ran­dum as we do with all our clients”.

Yon added that the protest ac­tion in Dur­ban re­sulted in one day’s lost pro­duc­tion – a to­tal of 600 units over two shifts.

San­taco’s provin­cial of­fice man­ager Si­fiso Shangase, speak­ing to the Week­end Ar­gus from Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, said he was con­fi­dent a so­lu­tion would be found.

An­other stick­ing point for the union is the avail­abil­ity of spare parts for the ve­hi­cle. “Right now parts are still be­ing im­ported, but we want ev­ery­thing to be made here in SA,” added Shangase.

“The ve­hi­cles should be rea­son­able and af­ford­able.”

Shangase, who owns two Quan­tums, said his or­gan­i­sa­tion was “open to dis­cus­sions”, say­ing they could not pre-empt the next move, should Toy­ota not agree to their de­mands. “We need to to en­gage so we get an ami­ca­ble so­lu­tion,” he said. “There needs to be a win­ning so­lu­tion for both par­ties.”

Shangase blamed the mid­week chaos on the “in­flux of ve­hi­cles from Gaut­eng, Eastern Cape, Free State and KZN”.

“It was not de­lib­er­ately planned. We wanted this (the protest) to pro­ceed in a par­tic­u­lar man­ner. Only op­er­a­tors (own­ers) would par­tic­i­pate.”

“We don’t want to to af­fect com­muters. There should be no neg­a­tive ef­fect on other road users.”

Shangase warned that the knock-on ef­fect of ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles would have to be passed on to pas­sen­gers.

“We will be forced to in­crease the fares for com­muters to board the ve­hi­cles.”

In Cape Town, taxi own­ers and driv­ers have al­ready painted a bleak pic­ture.

Faldie Idries, who op­er­ates be­tween Ma­nen­berg and Cape Town CBD, said many driv­ers and own­ers he knew, agreed that the Quan­tums were over­priced and its monthly re­pay­ments to banks of­ten went as high as R15 000.

Idries said he has to meet a daily tar­get of R800. “I am given a full tank each day and I have to re­turn the van with a full tank.” He still has to pay his fare col­lec­tor be­tween R200 and R250 per day.

Idries told Week­end Ar­gus he works from 5am to 8pm, miss­ing Fajr (first prayer for Mus­lims dur­ing Ra­madaan) and If­taar/Boeka (prayer that sym­bol­ises the end of the fast­ing day). “I some­times even go home with less than my slid­ing door op­er­a­tor (an­other name for a fare col­lec­tor)”.

An­other taxi owner-driver, who asked not to be named, shared Idries’ feel­ings about the Quan­tum prices. “It is over­priced,” he said.

PIC­TURE: MICHAEL WALKER

San­taco re­cently protested against the prices of Toy­ota Quan­tums.

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