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Mamelodi taxi strike leaves thousands stranded

Mamelodi taxi drivers say they won't work until police return 50 taxis which were impounded.

FILE: Commuters are stranded in Mamelodi as taxi drivers won’t allow Autopax buses to operate in the area. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - While the situation in Mamelodi remains calm, hundreds of people are battling to make their way to work because some taxi operators have staged a 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 the police return 50 vehicles which were impounded this week.

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."

Solomon Mahlangu Drive leading out of Mamelodi is usually bumper-to-bumper with taxis ferrying people to work, but this morning there isn'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.

Meanwhile, Prasa bus service 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.