ILLEGAL STRIKE ACTION BY TAXI DRIVERS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE

I had agreed to meet with representatives of SANTACO to address some key issues outlined in a memorandum that I had received following the meeting request. The meeting took place on Friday 12 August 2014. Yesterday morning, taxi drivers embarked on their own violent and illegal strike action which resulted in a taxi driver being shot. This action went against SANTACO’s appeal to its members to inform drivers to refrain from participating in an illegal strike. SANTACO has since distanced itself from the illegal strike and trust that they will take the necessary disciplinary action against any members implicated. Such disruption to the commuter’s ability to travel to and from their various destinations is completely unacceptable, and has far reaching effects on the economy of this region.

In the memorandum, SANTACO highlighted issues for discussion relating to:

  • Traffic Fines: Questioning the increased traffic fines approved by the Chief Magistrate, which came into effect as of 1 August 2014, for virtually all fine categories.
  • Impoundments: Asking for law enforcement officers to apply proper consideration when impounding vehicles, and for the issue to be looked at constructively by all role players.
  • Admin Mark: Claiming that the Admin Mark system, implemented in the Western Cape, is a serious hindrance on the taxi industry’s ability to run their business.
  • Late Renewals: Raising issues with how late renewals are handled, asking for a six month extension on late renewals, as well as a special task team from the City and the PRE to be established to fast track applications for late renewals. At the meeting, the Department of Transport and Public Works maintained that its support for the fine increases, by the Chief Magistrate of the Western Cape, is based on the very urgent need to improve commuter safety and compliance on our roads. These fines are not limited to public transport operators, but apply to all motorists in the Western Cape. These fine increases add weight to the seriousness of the violations, and should act as a deterrent for all road users, encouraging them act accordingly and within the confines of the law. Many lives have been lost on our roads as a result of non-compliant behaviour.

With regard to impoundments, it is widely accepted that route invasions, and other illicit practices within the taxi industry, cause conflict and have resulted in the loss of lives, as well as the tarnishing of the image on the minibus-taxi industry. The act has been openly condemned by SANTACO, who must act to ensure that new members are not being recruited in excess of passenger demand, which is currently the case. It is the duty of law enforcement agencies to take decisive action against operators providing services without valid operating licences and contrary to the terms and conditions thereof. In doing so, it becomes necessary to impound the vehicles involved as per section 87 of the National Land Transport Act (5 of 2009).

The Admin Mark system is imposed, as per regulation 59(2) of the National Road Traffic Regulations, on persons who owe any penalties or fees in terms of the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act (93 of 1996). In such instances, an Admin Mark is captured against the ID numbers of vehicle owners in the eNATIS system, effectively disallowing them from transacting on eNATIS with the affected registering authority. This means that vehicle owners with an Admin Mark against their name may be refused the application for the licencing of a motor vehicle or the issuing of a licence disc until such penalties and fees have been paid. Public transport operators may, however, still apply and be granted an operating licence even if they have an Admin Mark against their name, provided that the vehicles that will be used for the service remain roadworthy and properly licensed, and SANTACO has been informed of this. It is still very important, however, that operators are made aware of the repercussions for not paying any penalties or fees, and the department has set aside funds to assist SANTACO to ensure that this happens.

The matter of late renewals and the six month extension on the 30 June 2014 deadline for late renewals being automatically supported, was discussed with all factors being considered. The decision to grant such an extension can only be taken by the City of Cape Town, and will necessitate the PRE and SANTACO to work closely to identify operators with lapsed operating licences and make requests to operators to apply for late renewals before the expiry date. The City will communicate with the PRE once an agreement is reached and a decision has been taken.

We remain committed to ensuring that the provision of public transport is safe and reliable for the commuters of this province, and we will continue to work closely with all public transport stakeholders in this spirit, and in adherence to the governing laws and regulations. We are further committed to resolving issues that are within our powers to address, and will dedicate the necessary resources to doing so.

However, we strongly condemn the illegal and violent strike action that has taken place over the past few days. The Western Cape Government has kept in close contact with the SANTACO, the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies and is monitoring the situation closely. It is critical that the perpetrators behind the recent violent are brought to justice immediately.