COMMUTERS in East London were left stranded on Wednesday September 19 following a strike by the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) across the province.
Provincial transport spokesperson Unathi Binqose warned on Tuesday that the reported strike is likely to have a negative impact on both government and the private sector.
He urged commuters to make alternative transport arrangements.
“Those who will make alternative transport arrangements are not to be subjected to intimidation and even violence as the majority of them are the lifeblood of the taxi industry. If they lose their jobs, that will have rippling effect that may even impact on the taxi industry itself in the long run,” he said.
On Wednesday, Eastern Cape spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci said there were a group of taxi drivers driving in different vehicles in Qumza road burning tyres near Mdantsane NU 6 Mall.
She said that they were carrying pangas and sharp instruments and the police dispersed them with rubber bullets.
“It is important to note that the department has on numerous occasions sat down with the leadership of SANTACO to discuss the challenge of constant fuel hikes with respect to scholar transport operators. We recognise that the cry is a legitimate one. However, due to budgetary constraints, our hands are tied. The department remains committed to further engagements with SANTACO to find a lasting solution to this impasse,” Soci said.
Following the strike, exams were postponed and learners told not to come to school.
Preliminary feedback from taxi operators that went to Calata House in King William’s Town is that SANTACO taxi association has given the MEC of Transport, Safety and Liason Weziwe Tikana seven days to respond to their demands.
A total of 14 suspects were arrested all over the province for various crimes including but not limited to public violence, attempted murder and, damage to essential structures.
Four suspects aged between 25 and 71 were arrested by the SAPS on the R72 near the first Chalumna turn off, where taxi drivers allegedly barricaded the road with burning tyres and stones.
Public Order Policing (POP) members were on the scene and arrested the suspects for public violence. One Toyota Quantum and an Isuzu bakkie were also confiscated. The suspects will appear in the East London Magistrates Court soon.
Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga said the SAPS and law enforcement agencies will continue to monitor the situation in all affected areas.
“Although the majority of the roads have been opened, a call is made to all stakeholders to abide by the law and use all the relevant channels to have their grievances addressed,” Ntshinga said.
-Additional reporting: Amanda Nano.