Essential services staff left stranded as taxis refuse to budge

GOING NOWHERE: Taxis at the rank in Motherwell stay parked on Tuesday, leaving scores of essential staff with no means to get to work
GOING NOWHERE: Taxis at the rank in Motherwell stay parked on Tuesday, leaving scores of essential staff with no means to get to work

Scores of nurses, security guards and supermarket staff — all considered essential workers — were unable to go to work on Tuesday after being left stranded. 

In East London, Avanza taxi drivers yesterday downed tools after customers refused to pay more than double the normal rate.

Taxi drivers at the Motherwell taxi rank  said they were not allowing anyone to board their taxis as they vented their frustrations with the new regulations pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their frustrations include being forced to reduce capacity to eight people a load, the allocated times taxis are allowed to operate, as well as their routes they are permitted to take.

Drivers from both the Border Taxi Alliance and Uncedo Service Taxi Association (Usta) said they could not continue wasting petrol and making trips with such small loads of people.

One taxi owner said he still had to pay R5,000 for the release of his taxi which was impounded at the weekend, and with revenue being cut to what he claims is less than 5% of the normal income, he said he had no idea how he would make ends meet.

The heavy fines now being imposed are another gripe.

All of them blame the government for not giving careful  and thoughtful enough consideration to the plight of the drivers and how the new regulations would affect taxi industry revenue.

The drivers said they felt bad for the commuters, but had to take a stand.

More than 100 commuters in Motherwell stood waiting for hours near the various ranks, unable or barred from boarding taxis,  while many taxis were seen parked at ranks with the drivers standing idle nearby.

Some commuters were rushing to work at supermarkets such as  Checkers and Pick n Pay at Greenacres, others included nurses trying to reach Livingstone Hospital and the Aurora rehabilitation facility.

They had been waiting since 6am for taxis, they said.

Nobesuthu Mvunelwa, a cashier at Shoprite in Korsten, said she usually got to the rank just before 6am and was on her way 15 minutes later, but by 8am – when the Herald team arrived – she was still queuing.

“I don’t even know what we are still standing here for because the drivers clearly won’t be working today.

“We might end up arranging for a special trip with one of the small cars but that is expensive ,” Mvunelwa said.

Several commuters opted to return home while others waited or tried to hitchhike.

Some of the workers said they had reported the situation to their employees, but had fears about their pay being docked.

Thenjiwe Xhego, an Aspen employee, said she understood the taxi industry’s dilemma  but felt they could have made a plan for people to get to work.

Lockdown-associated problems in the taxi industry have not been isolated to the Bay but  appear to be nationwide, with  Gauteng operators who fall under Santaco now on a go-slow in response to the new regulations.

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