Protest action ‘won’t affect’ Cape Town taxi services
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.
Santaco recently protested against the prices of Toyota Quantums.