#TaxiStrike Quantum cost over R1m grievances and vehicle cost break down by SANTACO

However, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), which organised the march at Prospecton, said the blockading of other roads had not been sanctioned by the council and had been carried out by people with ulterior motives.

Dumile Cele, the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said given the pivotal role played by the taxi industry, any taxi strike would have an enormous impact on local business.

“Many of the Durban Chamber businesses have informed us this morning (yesterday) that workers were not able to reach work, and as such they were operating on a skeleton staff complement. Toyota informed us that their plant was not operational at all this morning,” she said.

Explaining the owners’ grievances, Santaco KZN spokesperson Mandla Mzelemu said the price of minibus taxis had more than doubled in the past 10 years to about R400 000.

“Quantums are made here, they don’t transport them but they are charging us an arm and a leg. When you add the bank interest, we end up paying all our earnings for the vehicles and by the time we pay them off, it has been so long we have to have money for repairs,” said Mzelemu.

He said that when the taxi industry raised fares, they always thought of commuters, and he urged Toyota to keep them in mind when they increased the price of their vehicles.

“We know the problems with the rand and the economy of South Africa, and we understand there are external economic factors, but as consumers we need to be considered as well,” said Mzelemu.

He also apologised to commuters and motorists for the disruptions, and said commuters being left stranded was not part of their plan.

He said the council had intended that only three vehicles from each region attend the march to minimise disruptions.

The council has given Toyota seven days to respond to a memorandum of grievances that was handed over on Wednesday.

Suben Moodley, the senior vice-president of corporate services at the motor manufacturer, yesterday said they would “evaluate” the contents of the memorandum.

He said Prospecton Road had been blocked off as taxi owners from around the province marched to the plant.

“As a result, staff working the night shift were unable to exit the premises in the morning, and all day-shift staff have been requested not to come to work, causing a halt to the day’s planned production,” said Moodley.

Losing a day of production meant they were behind 600 units over two shifts, he said.

Moodley said they had not been approached previously by the taxi owners or their representatives about their grievances, and had only been alerted to the march on Tuesday.

Transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda called on the taxi industry to respect rights of motorists and condemned the blockading of the N2 and N3 freeways in the morning. “We appreciate that the taxi industry in the province has genuine economic issues to raise with their partners in the automotive, insurance and banking sectors. We fully support a constructive engagement. However, what we will not agree to is a disruptive approach,” he said.