by Pamela Maringa

I fail to understand why it is that every time the taxis go on strike everyone has to be affected. Whenever there’s a strike roads are closed, there is violence and we arrive late at work; that’s if we are lucky enough to even get to work.

This week another taxi strike took place. The grievances were in relation to permits, traffic fines and the removal of Uber.

I use a bus daily to get to work, so I thought I would leave home early, in case the taxi commuters decide to join us. There were no taxis at all. Some people, who tried to transport others to work, were manhandled by the striking taxi drivers. I waited at the bus station for about two hours hoping a miracle would happen. There were many other people who waited too. A guy came and told us that we might as well just go home if we were waiting for the bus. He said taxi drivers had closed the road that leads from Protea Glen South to Protea North. He said they were burning tyres and putting rocks on the road. Those who forced their way through, had stones thrown at them and the buses couldn’t get across. Thousands of cars use this road daily, so many people were not able to go anywhere.

Amongst us, there were school pupils who were going to write their final matric exams. I was very sad when the girl that was standing next to me told me that her exam was about to start. She was still standing in the queue at the bus station at that time and began to panic. I realized there was no way for her to get to school on time. I began thinking of the consequences that she could face for missing her exam. It could mean that she may not make it to university next year. If she failed her exam she will be labelled as a failure. Everyone would have forgotten about the strike, but her future may have been adversely impacted upon. This is what many pupils had to deal with on the day of the strike. The Gauteng MEC for Education said that no learners would be penalized if they were affected by the strike. But can we trust that all the schools in Gauteng will give learners like this girl another chance to write their papers?

As soon as I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere, I started texting my superiors at work. They said I could go and work at home. But what about those who were unable to work at home? This meant production suffered and companies lost money because even the highways in some parts of Gauteng were blocked.

All this was because taxi owners and drivers were striking for traffic fines. I feel like the strike was a waste of time and money. We all know that taxi drivers are bad drivers and they never follow the rules of the road. Yet we lose a day at work because of something that we know for sure will never change. Asking the taxi driver to drive according to the rules is like asking President Jacob Zuma to step down. It will never happen.

If the traffic fines for the taxis were to be scrapped, that would mean condoning the taxi driver’s behaviour on our roads, possibly even signing death warrants for other road users. Taxi drivers can’t continue to act like they own the streets. They should stop closing the roads. If the strike is in Pretoria, how is closing the road in Soweto going to help the situation?

There isn’t much that an individual like me can do to change the situation. But we can ask questions like: Where are the police when roads are closed and people’s rights are being violated? What is the Department of Transport doing about the endless strikes? How severely must the strikes affect the economy and people’s livelihoods before it is regarded as a problem? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions.

I’m not saying taxi drivers and owners shouldn’t strike. They have a right to strike. When they do, they must consider other people’s rights to education and to work. The country can’t stand still because of one industry.

Taxi Associations should find other ways of showing their anger without being selfish and aggressive.