The Democratic Alliance (DA) have told Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s to cease and desist his persistent use of Twitter and address concerns raised by the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) following chaotic protest action on Wednesday 18 November in which they demanded the fast-tracking the payout of the COVID-19 relief fund.
Protesters blocked major highways and prevented a number of students from arriving at their matric exams, and the situation spiralled out of control when one person hijacked a commuter bus belonging to the City of Tshwane. These anarchic scenes have led the DA to demand a response from Mbalula, who has been active on his Twitter account but is yet to formally weigh in on the matter.
DA condemn taxi strike violence
Thamsanqa Mabhena, the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Transport said that the scenes that unfolded on Wednesday are deeply disturbing.
“We condemn the violence and intimidation towards private citizens at the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) strike yesterday,” he said. “We are particularly disturbed by images and video clips on social media depicting what seem like taxi marshals intimidating and damaging private properties such as cars.”
He said that there was “absolutely no reason why the strike could not have been peaceful” and condemned the incidents of intimidation, damage of private property and violence that unfolded.
“The NTA should take full responsibility for the members’ actions and we urge law enforcement agencies to hold them to account,” he said.
‘COVID-19 relief funds must be distributed as promised’
Mabhena then turned his attention to the grievances of the protesters, lamenting “a culmination of the government’s inefficiency as it relates to the taxi industry and total failure to fully regulate, formalise and modernise the industry”.
He also bemoaned “the government electing not to make available much needed the COVID-19 relief funds to operators as initially committed to do”.
“The DA calls on Mbalula, to step off Twitter and pay full attention to his department, particularly the processing of the COVID-19 relief funds to assist the taxi industry,” he said.
“The Transport Department had set aside R1 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, yet they’re yet to pay these funds towards the taxi operators for promised relief due to the sustained hard lockdown which resulted in commuter numbers declining,” he said.
Mbalula yet to respond
Mbalula has frequently insisted that improving the taxi industry and creating a formalised industry for operators and associations is a foremost priority of his, however these proclamations have thus far failed to come to fruition. Several meetings between his department and various national and provincial associations – as well as a number of previous strikes over the course of 2020 – have yet to produce results that even remotely satisfy the aggrieved industry workers.
“The taxi industry is one of the backbones transporting our workforce and keeping the economy active,” said Mabhena.
“While we must never allow a situation in which the industry attempts to hold the economy to ransom, government and Minister Mbalula has to come to the table and ensure the efficient and regulated operation of his industry.”