Port Elizabeth taxi strike ends

Friday, February 13, 2009

Port Elizabeth - The thousands of commuters who have been stranded due to the strike by taxi operators in Nelson Mandela Bay were once again able to make use of public transport on Friday as the strike was called off.

Deputy Mayor Bicks Ndoni said an agreement to end the strike had been reached at a meeting attended by the municipality, the transport department, taxi associations, the PE Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Percci) and the Algoa Bus Company.

"We have also put in place dispute-resolution mechanisms so that any further differences of opinion, can be similarly resolved without any disruption," Mr Ndoni told a media conference on Thursday.

Taxi operators apologised to commuters and undertook to transport them at half price today.

The four-day strike, which has crippled transport in the metro, has seen vehicles stoned and torched and buildings petrol-bombed.

The operators were protesting against the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Mr Ndoni said it had been agreed that an inclusive name would replace BRT, and infrastructure would be redesigned to accommodate all modes of transport, including taxis.

"We have also agreed on the inclusion of a dispute-resolution mechanism, the opening of ranks that are currently closed, and making available the current technical expertise to also assist the taxi associations in identifying the best design to facilitate the loading and off-loading of passengers."

According to Ndoni, the associations would submit their preferred option to the integrated public transport steering committee, after which BRT construction would resume.

"The parties to the agreement strongly condemn the criminal activities, violence, damage to municipal, private and public property and intimidation associated with the recent strike," Ndoni said.

In Cape Town reports indicate that taxi operators continued a strike on Friday to protest against the planned BRT.

According to media, about 30 National Taxi Alliance members tried to disrupt a Western Cape Taxi Council press conference in Wynberg, allegedly intimidating drivers who were not taking part in the strike.

Cape Town Mayor, Helen Zille condemned the acts of violence perpetrated and called on law enforcement agencies take tough action when necessary.

"We call on the SAPS to take a firm stance in providing riot control and breaking up barricades. Their primary responsibility is maintaining public order.

"Our traffic services have been instructed to tow away and impound any minibus taxis that are used to block traffic, and our Metro Police have been deployed to boost SAPS capacity," said Ms Zille.

Police were out in full force to keep the peace as the strike, that has turned violent in some cases, entered its third day.