Western Cape taxi strike expected on Monday

Western Cape taxi drivers are expected to go on strike on Monday in a dispute over a conference supposed to have been held to resolve a leadership dispute over the provincial arm of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), Cape Organisation of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) chairperson Besethu Ndungane said.

"The mini-bus taxi industry in the Western Cape has been without effective leadership for more than five years. This has resulted in our industry being unable to meet the challenges it faced and new challenges being left unattended," he said.

On June 6 the Western Cape High Court ordered that Santaco convene a conference to resolve the Western Cape taxi industry's issues over leadership and differences over clauses in the Santaco constitution.

Santaco is an umbrella body for taxi associations that liaises between the government and taxi associations regarding operational issues, funding and programmes relevant to the taxi industry.

This followed submissions by applicants identified as the Mini-bus Taxi Industry Task Team (MTITT), Codeta, Associations affiliated to Codeta, Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), Taxi Associations affiliated to Cata, Park City Taxi Operators Association, Kenfacta Taxi Association, Route 7 Transport Services, Mitchells Plain Century City Taxi Association, Main Road Taxi Association, and Proteaville Taxi Association.

They raised issues relating to a long-standing leadership dispute related to an apparent conflict between the Santaco provincial and national constitution.

They feel their views are not being reflected at a national level, causing a "leadership vacuum", decreased interaction between provincial and regional structures and taxi associations and a breakdown in trust. They also want clarity on the proper formula to calculate how many individuals can be elected to provincial structures and how they qualify to be elected.

A strike on September 18 set in motion procedures for a pre-elective conference, which Ndungane said was supposed to have started on Monday, but claimed Santaco had refused to honour the holding of the conference.

"This has now left the mini-bus taxi industry with no alternative but to withdraw its services throughout the Western Cape, effective from Monday 6 August 2018 until such time the pre-elective conference is held in the format described above. 

"The first date for the election is 14 August 2018. The pre-elective conference must precede this date."

Comment was not immediately available from Santaco. But, provincial transport MEC Donald Grant issued a strongly worded stated on Friday, saying that there was a walk-out by certain taxi representatives at the end of July when a Santaco official was trying to set the terms of the pre-elective conference.

"My officials and I have gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate an amicable resolution to the protracted battle between the parties, and the ‘Task Team’s’ threat to withdraw services goes against the spirit of the mediation process," he said.

Mediation has included a probe by retired judge Ian Farlam who listened to complaints and issues raised by the industry in the past months.

Grant said the Provincial Taxi Registrar had asked all taxi associations to refrain from withdrawing their services, intimidating other operators and damaging vehicles and property. 

"Any violation of the Code of Conduct for minibus-taxi operators and/or operating licence conditions may result in the deregistration of the association and the withdrawal of operating licences," he said.

He added that there would be monitoring to see if anybody does transgress these rules.