Picture: TWITTER
Picture: TWITTER

Anger and frustration boiled over as commuters were caught up in a massive taxi strike that brought parts of Johannesburg - the economic hub of the country - to a halt on Thursday.

Taxi drivers blocked key transport routes‚ causing widespread disruption across the city‚ including pupils writing school exams.

“It’s becoming a war zone now. We hear gunshots. They’re hitting people and stoning cars. I tried to get to work at around 6am this morning and every road out of the suburb was blocked. They are even using trucks to block the roads‚” said Rushil Govender‚ who lives in Halfway Gardens‚ Midrand.

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) blamed the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) as well as authorities for the chaos.

“Santaco mentioned it was going to be handing a memorandum to the directors of SA Taxi Finance‚ but this messaging was misleading … It must take full responsibility for the chaos‚ and should be held to account for its actions‚” said the AA.

But Santaco said it had given ample warning to commuters.

“Our intention is to march and voice out our concern. It was not part of our plan to be violent or to cause chaos‚” said Thulani Qwabe‚ chief operating officer for TaxiChoice‚ the business wing of Santaco.

“Our plan is to follow the permission that we got from JMPD yesterday‚ to which we announced that the taxi industry will take action today. We also said that the availability of minibus taxis will be affected and also encouraged people to use alternative transport‚” he said on 702 radio.

Airport authorities said commuters should take possible traffic delays into account before travelling to OR Tambo International.

The blockade prevented bus drivers getting to work‚ affecting commuters using the Gautrain.

“Unfortunately‚ due to major roads being blocked‚ employees are unable to get to the various stations this morning. As a result‚ there is no bus service & a train every 20 minutes on both the N-S & E-W lines. We will keep you updated as the situation evolves throughout the day‚” said an early morning Gautrain alert.

The Santaco strike is in protest against the monthly cost of their Toyota Quantum vehicles.

Large parts of the city and major transport routes were affected‚ including the N1 highway at the Allandale off-ramp in Midrand‚ the N12 and Soshanguve Highway.

Ivory Park residents said they were stranded and unable to get to work.

“At 3am on Thursday‚ the N1 north and south was blocked by taxis. The traffic is heavy on the N1‚ N12 and N3 in the south of Johannesburg coming from the Vaal area. Also‚ traffic from Pretoria to Johannesburg is affected as hundreds of taxis are joining in and driving slowly‚” Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Wayne Minnaar told TimesLIVE.

“At the moment the police can’t confirm any violence or harm to both the drivers and motorists.”

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi urged parents to keep their children home for their own safety and said pupils would be allowed to write exams at a later stage.

#TaxiStrike was trending on twitter as commuters vented about the chaos caused by the blockade.

@QMathosa said that residents were stuck in Midrand.

There was frustration in the tweet posted by @mynamejd who was sitting in gridlock for an hour.

@_Mondly took to social media to shed more light on why drivers were striking.

ITRAFFIC (GP)‏ tweeted: “Protesting N1 Northbound before Golden Highway I/C. All lanes closed. Slow moving traffic.”

- Timeslive

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