In The News South Africa

#TaxiStrike: Tshwane buses attacked, service suspended

PRETORIA, June 15 – The Tshwane municipality on Thursday suspended its Tshwane Bus Service after several were stoned as taxi drivers and operators embarked on a crippling protest across Gauteng.

Municipality spokesperson Selby Bokaba said other services offered by the municipality could also be affected.

“The Tshwane Bus Services has suspended its operations after six of its buses were stoned this morning after leaving the depot at WF Nkomo Street. The buses were forced to return to the depot,” said Bokaba.

“Some of the city employees reside in areas affected by the protest action and are thus unable to report for duty due to the unavailability of public transport. The protest action is likely to have an impact on service delivery today.”

Bokaba said the municipality would inform residents once the situation had returned to normal.

“As a caring employer, the city has the responsibility to safeguard the lives of its employees as well as its assets. We will monitor the situation and once it returns to normality, some of the services will resume earnestly,” he said.

“While we acknowledge that the right to protest is constitutionally guaranteed, however, the protesters have no right to blockade the routes and intimidate those that wish to travel to their workplaces and to school.”

Tshwane apologized for the disruption of service.

Meanwhile, Tshwane University of Technology spokesperson Willa de Ruyter the institution of higher education was monitoring the protest closely.

“We have been informed that the TMPD (Tshwane Metro Police Department) is in the process of clearing blocked roads. Students who are affected and cannot get to exam venues, will not be disadvantaged and should contact their lecturers or heads of department,” she said.

“Those who are already at examination and test venues, will continue to write as scheduled.”

Chaos erupted on Gauteng’s major freeways on Thursday as protesting taxi operators used their vehicles, as well as hijacking heavy trucks, to block the roads.

The taxi operators, aligned to the South African National Taxi Council, are protesting against what they call high repayment fees on their vehicles.

The Gauteng education department on Thursday urged parents to keep children at home for the day, in the wake of chaos relating to massive protests by taxi operators.

“The Gauteng education department urges parents to keep their children at home today due to the national taxi strike. For the sake of the safety of the children the department believes that all precautionary measures should be taken to keep our children safe,” spokesperson Steve Mabona said in a statement.

“The department has urged all schools to give learners that could not make it today a second opportunity to write exams. We understand that many schools are writing exams but assure parents that children that did not go to school today will be given a second opportunity.”

Mabona said the provincial authority had communicated to all school principals to give children that could not make it to school on Thursday another opportunity to write the examinations at a later stage.

“In cases where children have made it to school safely, the schools are urged to make a determination whether to continue with the exams that were scheduled for today, subject to the condition that it is safe to do so,” he said.

“Let us all cooperate for the sake of our children.”

Chaos erupted on Gauteng’s major freeways on Thursday as protesting taxi operators used their vehicles, as well as hijacking heavy trucks, to block the roads.

“It is hectic on our roads this morning. Most of our freeways and highways are blocked. This includes the N12, the N1, and it is worse in Pretoria because the R80 to Soshanguve and Mabopane is blocked,” Gauteng Traffic spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo told the African News Agency.

“There is no movement on the R21 at Flying Saucer [interchange] from Pretoria. That is where the challenges are.”

Nxumalo said the protesting taxis had also hijacked heavy trucks and were using them to block the freeways.

“Our guys traffic policehave been there, removing these taxis from the road. As of now, we have impounded more than 17 taxis which were blocking the roads. They are now hijacking trucks and using them to block. They are actually taking the keys from the truck drivers,” said Nxumalo.

She said earlier, in a bid to scare motorists around the Mall of Africa in Midrand, some taxi drivers had fired shots in the air.

“They are trying to scare people using alternative means for transport. Remember, we have alternative routes like the R101 and some people had used such roads to get to their destinations. Our officers rushed there and we are on the scene. We are still looking for that taxi, obviously it has firearms,” said Nxumalo.

She appealed to road users to venture onto the roads only after ascertaining whether it was safe.

“I cannot say people should not go to work, but they must use alternative routes, not the major freeways.”

The Tshwane Metro Police on Wednesday said the protest was illegal. The taxi operators, aligned to the South African National Taxi Council, are protesting against what they call high repayment fees on their vehicles.

The Gauteng operators had on Wednesday advised commuters to arrange alternative transport for Thursday.

However, commuters in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, said though they had managed to organise other means of getting to work on Thursday, they were blocked by taxi operators on the exit of the area.

“I usually use a taxi but because of the strike I decide to take a bus. Some people arranged private cars, unfortunately we were blocked on the exit and told to go back home,” said resident Phillip Moremi.

The area remained quiet and there was no reports of violence.

Taxi operators were expected to hand over a memorandum of grievances to the directors of SA Taxi Finance company.

 

ANA

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