Traffic on two major Eastern Cape roads was disrupted on Thursday when members of the taxi association SANTACO protested against changes to the scholar transport agreement with the Department of Transport. The N2 between Mthatha and Kokstad was blockaded with taxis and cargo trucks.
The protesters also blockaded the R61 between Libode and Cofimvaba. Taxi operators want the Department of Transport to review its decision to reduce scholar transport contracts from five years to two years. They are also unhappy about the reduction of kilometres for the service provider.
Trucks were hijacked and used to block the road. No traffic moved, even ambulances could not pass. SANTACO’s Alfred Nzo regional secretary, Sinethemba Njoti says the protest was to focus the department’s attention on their grievances.
“In order for this industry to be given the attention it deserves clearly the province has to stand still, maybe that’s where the province will rise, because clearly the taxi industry is the most undermined sector in the province,” says Njoti.
A teacher, Sindile Ntontela says this protest disrupted a day’s schooling.
“We are missing a lot on school work because children are busy writing formal task for term one so that they can get reports at the end of the term but everything now has come to a stop, it’s a great loss for this day,” says Ntontela.
A commuter, Nosiphiwe Vatsha and a motorist, Velile Vava were inconvenienced by the blockade.
“We were stopped early in the morning. We are coming from Cape Town. We are heading to Durban. All what we want from the province is the quick response and resolve whatever the impasse is all about. There are people here that are ferrying corpses to different areas. I am afraid some might be damaged due to excessive heat,” says Vatsha.
“At about 06h00 in the morning I arrived and the road was blocked and I have been here since then. I am driving from Durban to Port Elizabeth, now I am stuck, I do not know what to do,” says Vava.
Spokesperson for the Department of Transport in the province, Unathi Binqose says the roads were clear on Thursday afternoon.
“Our sincere apologies go to all road users that were affected. We are calling on whoever may wish to protest whether it’s taxi operators or community but to just come to the negotiating table so that we get to a solution,” says Binqose.
The premier, Oscar Mabuyane condemned the actions of the taxi drivers and instructed the provincial transport department to engage with the taxi industry on any outstanding disputes.