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A bus is deliberately parked across all lanes of the N3 in Durban to block traffic on Wednesday morning as part of a taxi protest. Picture: ANA

JOHANNESBURG – The protest action started at 5am, with taxis blocking roads in the Durban city centre and converging at Toyota in Prospecton.

Police confirmed that the M2 South near West Street and Warwick Avenue were closed and urged motorists to use alternative routes.

About 1,000 taxis were expected to converge in Durban on Wednesday as the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) embarked on protest action against corporates, government and others involved in the country’s taxi industry.

“We are concerned that taxi operators are going to go out of business very soon unless there is drastic change in the way that corporate South Africa treats the taxi industry,” Thulani Qwabe told ANA on Wednesday morning.

Qwabe is the chief operating officer for taxiChoice, the business wing of SANTACO.

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At 6am, about 160 taxis had gathered in and around Prospecton, outside Toyota. Qwabe said that another 720 were expected, with vehicles en route from as far away as Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

“We are concerned about the high instalments that taxi operators have to pay when they buy new vehicles. High instalments are caused by exorbitant interest rates, high insurance premiums and the high Tracker premiums because all of our vehicles have to have Tracker devices.

“This action that we are taking to Toyota is to get their attention and is the first of many. We expect to visit Toyota a couple of times but we expect to visit other companies as well,” said Qwabe.

Government was also on the list of those being targeted, he said, including the national transport department and the DTI. The industry was “extremely unhappy” around the situation of operating licences, he said.

In most cases, government had been “a disaster” when it came to issuing operating licences, which led to abuse from traffic officials.

“Government must play its role in terms of giving us operating licences. Government is prepared to talk to the very same corporates who are abusing the industry about finance, but they are not prepared to do the same with the taxi industry. It’s extremely unfair and doesn’t make any sense.”

He said that all of the companies involved in the taxi industry, including Nissan, Mercedes Benz and VW could expect similar protest action from SANTACO. Banks and financiers of taxis would also be subject to such action.

“Toyota was the first company the taxi industry wanted to target because it has over 75% market share of taxi sales.

For this reason Toyota should be targeted first and others will follow soon.”

SANTACO’s memorandum of demands, which was expected to be handed to Toyota at 9am, reads in part: “The action of the capitalist companies such as Toyota SA do not only destroy the livelihood of thousands of South African families, but the higher prices lead to smaller profits, which in turn starts operators fighting amongst each other, commonly known as taxi violence, where our members actively pursue each other sometimes leading to serious injury and even the death of taxi owners, drivers, and in the worst cases, commuters.”

Probably to call the boss and say you ain’t coming to work today…

– African News Agency (ANA)