An upcoming taxi strike could spell disaster for thousands of matric candidates who might not make it to school on time for their exams should they fail to find alternative transport.
The National Taxi Association (NTA) plans to go on strike on Wednesday; this comes after another protest (against farm killings) last week saw many matrics arriving at exam rooms very late after thousands of people blocked the roads.
The NTA has warned commuters to make alternative plans on Wednesday, when they plan to take over the streets of Pretoria in an effort to force the transport ministry to listen to their grievances.
NTA spokesperson Theo Malele said the march will first go to the Department of Transport offices before heading to the Union Buildings.
Malele accused Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi of arrogance and refusing to engage with the industry.
“We want to deal with the arrogance of the minister who refuses to give attention to a host of grievances in the taxi industry.
“We have issues with the new Aarto (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) bill and the unworkable taxi recapitalisation process and operating licence problems.”
Drivers want an increase in the amount they get paid when they hand over their old taxis as part of the taxi recapitalisation plan. Currently owners are given R84 000 for an old taxi.
The drivers’ gripe with the Aarto bill is that for every traffic offence, a driver’s licence gets a demerit until they lose their driver’s permit.
Taxi drivers were supposed to go on the march last month but it was cancelled at the 11th hour after Maswanganyi agreed to meet them. Malele has accused Maswanganyi of not sticking to his promise.
“We were supposed to have our march on October 19 and the minister asked us to postpone.
“The minister failed to honour his promise and, if matric learners miss their exams, the blame should be placed squarely on the minister,” Malele said.
Maswanganyi’s spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
Matric candidates are expected to sit for the English paper 2 exam on the morning of the strike. Last Monday, the Gauteng Department of Education had to give candidates concessions after they arrived late for their exams because of the Black Monday protests.
In some cases, candidates were allowed to write their exams at alternative centres as the protest against farm killings blocked the main highways in Gauteng.
Gauteng Education Department spokesperson Steve Mabona said a contingency plan was in place for the exams, should the strike go ahead as planned.
“In the event learners are late, for reasons beyond their control, all chief invigilators will know how to manage their examination.
“We will appeal that learners try to use alternative means to reach their centres. Parents must ensure that learners are safe. All those learners who do not make it, will be managed administratively,” Mabona said.
He said it was worrying that there were protests that affected matric candidates.
“It is unfortunate that we experience activities that are disrupting our examination process. The integrity of our examination is our priority; and, as such, we call upon all to respect this important moment in the education sector,” Mabona said.
In June, South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) taxi drivers went on a protest, blocking highways in their fight against exorbitant interest rates they said they were being charged when buying new vehicles.
Malele said they were expecting members from throughout the country to descend on Pretoria.
“This means there will be lack of transport in some areas. People must also expect traffic on some routes because everyone will be driving to converge in Pretoria. We want this protest march (to be conducted) in a peaceful way.”
Mnisi said they were surprised by the planned protest. He said in their meeting last month it was agreed that a technical team be formed to deal with the taxi operators’ grievances.
“The meeting has not even sat and now they want to protest. We have said that government is willing to deal with taxi operators’ issues.”