Taxi drivers clash with CATA boss

A feud between a group of Langa taxi drivers and a local taxi association boss, which threatened to leave commuters in the lurch, appears to be getting patched up.

The drivers said they were fed up with the Langa Cape Town Taxi Association (CATA) chairman Mvolo Tshika, whom they had accused of blocking them from joining the association and owning their own taxis.

On Tuesday April 19, a number of taxi commuters in the area were left stranded as drivers refused to work until their demands were met. They claimed CATA’s rules permitted them to buy and operate their own taxis once they had worked for at least three years as taxi drivers and had paid a joining fee of R5 000, but the chairman had not stuck to those rules.

Several taxis were lying idle outside the rank on Tuesday morning. The few that were running were apparently driven by taxi owners.

The disgruntled drivers accused Mr Tshika of being the only person in the association who was blocking their way and stopping them from owning their own taxis. They said drivers who had already bought vehicles could not use them.

Taxi driver Gcobani Mandla said they had told Mr Tshika late last year that some drivers wanted to join the association and buy their own taxis. But, he said, they had been shocked when he told them a couple of weeks ago that he would not permit that.

“I have been working here as a taxi driver for more than ten years. According to the rules here, I’m eligible to join the association as a taxi owner because I met the requirements,” he said.

Mr Mandla said the banks had repossessed some taxis because the chairman was not letting the drivers operate them, and so they had been unable to keep up with their monthly instalments.

“I’m in arrears as I’m speaking to you. I can’t afford to pay the monthly instalments of R13 000. I’m probably going to be blacklisted, and the bank can come anytime and take the taxi,” he said.

Mr Mandla accused the chairman of victimisation and exploitation, saying drivers did not get unemployment or medical aid benefits. The only hope they had of bettering their lives, he said, was for them to save every cent they made to buy their own taxis.

“We don’t get promotions here, and even our jobs are not secured, as you can be fired at any given time. The best way for us to have something sustainable is to buy our own taxis.”

Another angry taxi driver, Sonwabile Mbukuqu, claimed Mr Tshika had vowed not to allow any taxi drivers to operate their taxis while he was still the chairman, and he had expelled some drivers from the rank for bringing their own vehicles.

Vukani tried phoning Mr Tshika on Tuesday to give him a chance to respond to the allegations. His phone rang repeatedly before going to voicemail.

We SMSed him requesting comment, but he didn’t respond. Then, on Wednesday, we tried phoning again. This time he took our call, but responded curtly. He said the drivers had stopped “picketing” and would return to work.

He refused to comment further. “Please, don’t call me again. I don’t know you. You don’t know me,” he said before hanging up.

Vukani called Mr Mbukuqu who confirmed that following a meeting on Wednesday morning between the drivers and the taxi association’s bosses, it had been agreed that the drivers would be allowed to use their vehicles at the rank. The drivers had also agreed to return to work.