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Taxi strike leaves Mamelodi commuters frustrated

Hundreds of commuters have been waiting for taxis in the cold on the sides of roads in Mamelodi.

Hundreds of commuters have been waiting in vain in the freezing cold for taxis on the sides of roads following a taxi strike in Mamelodi on 9 July 2015. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - Commuters in Mamelodi have expressed their frustration at being stranded after the National Taxi Alliance called a last minute stay away.

The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) said its members, together with taxi drivers from the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) have decided not to work in the Mamelodi area until police return 50 vehicles which were impounded this week.

Hundreds of commuters have been waiting in vain in the freezing cold for taxis on the sides of roads across Mamelodi.

While some have resorted to walking to work, others have tried hitchhiking, while some have just given up.

#MamelodiTaxis People waiting, hoping for a lift to work. BB pic.twitter.com/BeiqDzRIJC

Solomon Mahlangu Drive leading out of Mamelodi is usually bumper-to-bumper with taxis ferrying people to work, but this morning there wasn't a single one in sight.

This main road is, however, lined with hundreds of pedestrians quickly shuffling towards the city, many of them with their arms stretched out and thumbs in the air, trying to catch a lift.

A group of about 15 taxi drivers were seen parked on the side of the road in Nellmapius, their vehicles idle as they huddled around a fire.

Police vehicles are patrolling the main routes, while others are parked at key intersections.

Commuters say it's unfair they bear the brunt of the taxi operators' anger.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to try hitchhiking and it's dangerous. So we're supposed to go to work.

"I'm here since 6:30 am, the buses are full, and there is no way to go to work. Now I'm going back to my house now."

TRANSPORT MEC SLAMS TAXI INDUSTRY

Gauteng Transport MEC, Ismail Vadi has described the situation as "difficult" and "unfortunate".

Tensions are simmering in the area over the bus routes after Autopax took over from Putco.

Vadi said the situation is calm and the Autopax buses have not come under attack this morning.

"Commuters had to go to work. They want to get on with their lives because they're now being held to ransom by the taxi industry."

It's unclear how long the NTA intends holdings it's stay away or whether negotiations to resolve the situation will take place.

The NTA's Alpheus Mlalazi said provincial government was targeting the taxi industry unfairly.

"It's not even a showdown, it's cry for help. Allow us the operating space so that we can continue to do what we're doing."

But Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch has encouraged his union's members not to stay away from work, as they have not agreed to the decision.

"Operators vehicles have been impounded; I've just been on a call with the MEC of Gauteng. We're looking at all avenues of being able to assist wherever it is possible."

Meanwhile, Autopax said 80 percent of its fleet was back on the road in Mamelodi.

Its buses, some of which came under attack last week, have been seen operating in the area.

Autopax took over Putco routes in the area after the latter decided to cancel its contract with government for certain routes.

ACT OF HOOLIGANISM

Last week, the City of Tshwane described the attacks on Autopax buses in Mamelodi as 'acts of hooliganism that borders on anarchy'.

The city met with the transport department and taxi drivers on Wednesday but failed to broker a deal to end the protests sparked by Putco's decision to cancel its service there.

At least four buses were stoned, allegedly by taxi drivers, and others couldn't drive through the township due to roads being blocked with rubble.

On Friday Putco confirmed that five people were shot and wounded on one of its buses in Mamelodi.

The driver was shot in the stomach before a suspect shot four passengers.