THOUSANDS of commuters were left stranded in Durban’s city centre on Tuesday as striking taxi drivers and owners, some wielding sticks, guns and other weapons, put up barricades, burned debris, attacked vehicles and destroyed property.

by Nce Mkhize, BDLive, May 26 2015, 17:42

The strike is said to have started after Metro Police officials impounded more than 380 minibus taxis for operating without permits.

But taxi owners and drivers are said to have embarked on the strike to show their displeasure at GO! Durban, the R20bn rapid transport system that eThekwini Municipality is embarking on. Taxi drivers and owners maintain that the project will take away their livelihood and is only benefiting a few politically connected business people who have been awarded tenders.

Khanyisani Mthethwa, one of the taxi owners who participated in the strike, said they were fed up with being victimised by the authorities.

“They must release the 380 taxi(s) or nobody will be able to go to work in Durban. It is not our fault that these vehicles don’t have permits. We have been applying but officials at the offices are not doing anything about it,” he said.

Bafana Mhlongo, secretary of the South African Taxi Alliance, said taxi drivers and operators were vehemently opposed to GO! Durban. “We are victimised. We have been asking questions about this project but nobody is telling us anything. We started this transportation industry from scratch and we cannot allow anybody to take away our livelihood,” he said.

eThekwini Municipality manager Sibusiso Sithole, said they were doing their best to find a solution to the impasse.

“At this stage we are not clear what the issues are that have led to the strike by members of the taxi industry. We are hoping that a formal meeting which will be convened will indicate what their demands are and how we can engage to find solutions to those demands,” Mr Sithole said.

Zingisani Nkanjeni, spokesman for the Public Transport Voice, an NGO that speaks on behalf of commuters, condemned the violent behaviour of taxi owners and drivers in Durban and called on authorities to “bring perpetrators to book”.

Monday’s strike was not the first time eThekwini municipality and the local taxi industry have been at loggerheads. In June last year, taxi drivers and owners went on strike demanding that the municipality cancel all their ticket warrants.