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Mamelodi taxi strike might affect entire province

Taxi associations in Mamelodi want their impounded taxis released.

Mamelodi Taxi Association said if their demands are not met, they will organise a provincial halt to taxi operation. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - Taxi associations in Mamelodi have warned government that if their impounded taxis are not released, they will escalate their stay away to a provincial level.

Thousands of commuters were left stranded this morning after the associations announced last night that they would withhold their services.

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

The authorities impounded about 50 taxis on Wednesday as the police's Operation Fiela got underway in the township.

The Mamelodi Local and Long Distance Taxi Association's Stemer Monageng said the organisation is engaged in talks with the provincial government.

He said if their demands are not met, they will organise a provincial halt to taxi operation.

"They stay away is only for simple reasons; we want our cars released and we want Operation Fiela out of Mamelodi. We don't need Operation Fiela in Mamelodi, we can clean our own yard."

While the transport department has reiterated its commitment to negotiate with operators, it has warned it will not do so under the threat of violence.

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.

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 .