S.African minibus drivers strike over virus relief pay
Minibus taxi drivers in South Africa’s most populous Gauteng province on Monday went on strike to demand more coronavirus relief funding, leaving thousands of commuters stranded in the country’s economic hub.
inibus taxi drivers in South Africa’s most populous Gauteng province on Monday went on strike to demand more coronavirus relief funding, leaving thousands of commuters stranded in the country’s economic hub.
The usually crammed privately-owned vehicles have been limited to 70 percent capacity under social distancing measures imposed since the start of a strict anti-coronavirus lockdown on March 27.
The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) on Friday called for a shutdown of minibus services on June 22 and 23 after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced a 1.1 billion rand (around $63 million / 56 million euros) relief payment to registered taxi operators — amounting to 3,500 rand ($202) per driver.
The union called for “at least” 20,000 rand ($1,154) per vehicle and urged strike action in Gauteng, home to South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria and financial centre Johannesburg.
Dozens of taxi drivers parked their white minibuses across roads on Monday and barred commuters from seeking alternative forms of transport.
SANTACO condemned the road blocks and “intimidation of people” via Twitter, calling for the taxi industry to “demonstrate a peaceful shutdown”.
Videos posted on social media showed police firing tear gas to disperse the protest.
South Africans were allowed to return to work this month after weeks of total confinement during which most businesses were shut to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Restrictions have been gradually eased to allow economic activity to resume, although stringent safety requirements remain in place.
To date the country has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa, with over 97,300 recorded infections and at least 1,930 deaths.