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Santaco condemns 'sudden taxi strike'

Utaf wants operating licences awarded to its members as well as the right to use Rea Vaya bus lanes.

FILE: Hundreds of taxi operators making their way to office of MEC in Johannesburg CBD on 17 November 2014. Picture: Aurelie Kalenga/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi says his office has met with the leadership from the United Taxi Associations Forum (Utaf) following the strike.

Vadi says Utaf is demanding that operating licences be awarded to its members as well as the right to use the Rea Vaya bus lanes.

Utaf is a breakaway group from the National Taxi Alliance and South African National Taxi Council (Santaco).

The forum initially opposed the Rea Vaya system during its inception.

Vadi says the drivers want exemptions from the e-tolling system, but believes the issue is about something else.

"I think the real problem here is two-fold. Firstly, there are a large number of illegal operators who are demanding the right to get their licenses and we are not going to exceed to that. Secondly there are people whose permits have expired."

STRIKE CONDEMNED

Santaco has meanwhile condemned yesterday's strike.

It says operators who were demonstrating against e-tolls were well aware of government regulations.

Striking drivers handed a memorandum of demands to the transport department calling for an end to e-tolls and the reinstatement of permits and subsidies.

Picture: Aurelie Kalanga/EWN

Santaco says it doesn't understand the basis for the strike as drivers know they need to have valid permits to be considered for exemptions.

The council's Bafana Magagula says they know exactly that taxis with permits are exempted from paying e-tolls.

"That is not a joke," he said.

The transport department has also criticised small associations that organised the strike.

Spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso says there are engaging with associations.

"There are discussions with organised taxi industries such as Santaco and the National Taxi Alliance. Where we are aware of certain challenges and we working within certain time frames to ensure the issue of permits are resolved."

COMMUTERS WANT EARLY WARNING

Disgruntled taxi commuters have pleaded with taxi associations to find a faster way of communicating when embarking on a strike because they solely rely on their services as a means of transportation.

Thousands of people were left stranded at the last minute yesterday morning.

Commuters who spoke to Eyewitness News say they feel disrespected as customers.

"It's a Monday morning you ready to go to work and you have meetings. Could someone at least warn the public?"

Another said she wants access to the serves she pays for.

"It would have been nice for us to at least know on Friday. Everyone who was around me only knew in the morning that the taxis are not operating."

It was a day of chaos, disruption and confusion as many, including learners and students writing exams, had to make last minute arrangements to get to their respective venues.

Picture: @db_moloisane via Twitter

A student told Eyewitness News she was almost an hour late for her exam.

"I was writing an engineering exam and I was 45 minutes late. It can't be like this."

She says taxi associations should find a faster way of communicating planned strikes in advance.

"I also feel disrespected as a passenger; it would have been nice to at least know on Friday so we could have made prior arrangements."

Taxi drivers have promised to return to their posts this morning.