Some unscrupulous taxi operators have hiked their fare by 300 percent to take advantage of desperate commuters left stranded by the national bus driver strike, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

With Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) drivers on strike and Cape Town’s the MyCiTi services suspended due to intimidation, commuters in many parts of the city– particularly those without easy access to Metrorail – have been left with no transport options as the strike enters its second week.

Striking unions SATAWU and TOWU have called on train drivers to join the strike in solidarity against the employers.

Cape Chamber of Commerce President Fred Jacobs said businesses affiliated to the chamber have not indicated how the strike have affect productivity, but some business said employees had complained that taxi bosses were increasing fares by up to 300 percent.

“Our concern is employees affected by the strike and any sympathy strike that might emerge,” said Jacobs.

But two main taxi umbrella bodies in Cape Town, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and the Cape Organisation for Democratic Taxi Association (CODETA) deny the Cape Chamber of Commerce’s claims that taxi operators are fleecing desperate customers.

However, taxi bosses say they are making significant profits due to the strike.

Blaauwberg Taxi Association (BTA) chair Christy Prins said they were making “huge” profits for the first time.

Prins said the demand for their service was now so high that the association had asked Atlantis residents who own buses to help transport stranded commuters as their fleet of 120 taxis was not meeting the demand.

At least 15 privately owned 22-seater minibuses had been made available to transport commuters from Atlantis to destinations throughout the City, he said.

“At least we’re making money. I hope government can see. They subsidise the buses but they don’t subsidise us (taxi bosses). They have gone to Metrorail and said they can use Golden Arrow clip cards (weekly and monthly tickets), why not do the same with us (taxi owners)?” He denied claims that BTA operators had hiked fares to take advantage of desperate commuters.

CATA Secretary General Nqazeleni Matayitayi said fares were only increased when there was a petrol price hike.

Matayitayi said CATA was a disciplined organisation and drivers and their gaatjies “can’t increase fares without our consent”.

CODETA’s Secretary General Mzoxolo Dibela said although the strike meant increased profits, members were not increasing the taxi fares.

“If there are people doing that then they don’t belong to our member taxi associations,” said Dibela.

However, he said they were concerned with taxis overloading and “flying” on the roads in order to fit in more trips and collect more passengers.

“Taxi’s are flying, rushing to offload and return to load more people. It can cause accidents but so far no accidents have been reported,” he said.

Since the bus drivers strike started on April 19 following parties to the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC) failing to agree on an 18 percent wage increase across the board, approximately 200 000 GABS customers were left stranded.

Then on Friday last week all MyCiTi bus services were suspended following threats made to MyCiTi bus staff at Table View station, said City spokesperson Kylie Hatton.

Hatton said striking members allegedly threatened MyCiTi bus staff, saying buses would be set alight and they would be “burnt alive” if they continued working.

She said the MyCiTi bus service will remain suspended and was unable to say when it would resume.

MyCiTi bus commuter Paul Malopa, a resident of Parklands who works in Paarden Eiland, said he was unable to go to work yesterday due the suspension of MyCiTi bus services and was concerned that he won’t get paid.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) spokesman Vincent Masoga said they continue to demand an 18% wage increase and the strike would continue indefinitely.

Source: West Coast News — Peter Luhanga