‘Mamelodi commuters will not be left stranded’

Taxi alliance says the province-wide stay away will be called off as impounded taxis will be returned.

FILE: Hundreds of commuters waited 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.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Taxi Alliance says taxi drivers will report for duty tomorrow and commuters in Mamelodi will not be left stranded.

Secretary General Alpheus Mlalazi says the province-wide stay away will be called off following an agreement struck today that impounded taxis will be returned.

Thousands of commuters were left in the lurch this morning after taxi associations in Mamelodi announced last night they would be withdrawing their services from the area.

But Mlalazi says he has government's word that the impounded taxis will be returned.

"It looks like there has been a good development. They have now agreed to, and again we will be meeting with the premier tomorrow at 3pm. In light of that we have decided to call off the stay away."

At the same time Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi says he's not aware of any agreement to release impounded taxis and there's no way government can return unlicensed vehicles.

Vadi says he's not had any confirmation about whether taxi services will be operating in Mamelodi tomorrow.

But he says much like this morning Autopax buses will be on call to ferry any stranded passengers.

"It would be very unfortunate if they made a last minute, ill-considered decision, to go ahead with the strike tomorrow. Particularly in light to the fact that the premier has already indicated that he's meeting them tomorrow afternoon. So if the door is open for discussion and engagement why would you want to continue with the strike?"

Meanwhile, the Gauteng Community Safety Department has vowed to maintain law and order and says no unregistered taxis may operate.

Taxi drivers have accused law enforcement agencies of targeting them to protect a tender given to Autopax to operate in the area.

MEC for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane has denied these claims and says commuters cannot be held to ransom by disgruntled taxi drivers.

Her spokesperson Thapelo Moiloa says their officers are deployed at various spots.

"We are going to make sure that all the routes in Gauteng are going to be brought to a halt. But we want to say commuters have a choice on which mode of transport they are going to use."

Moiloa had earlier said the department will not be held to ransom by disgruntled taxi drivers.

"We don't want South Africa to turn into a 'banana republic' because we want law and order to prevail on our roads."

Taxi associations had warned government they would escalate their stay away to provincial levels if impounded taxis were not returned.

But Moiloa said those taxis weren't registered.

"The taxis we impounded as part of the routine public transport law enforcement operation in the area."

Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi has also emphasised that unlawful taxi operators will not be allowed on the roads and law enforcement agencies will continue to monitor the situation.