84 TAXImen arrested

EIGHTY-FOUR taxi operators were arrested in Port Elizabeth yesterday after disobeying a police order to disperse during a strike.

EIGHTY-FOUR taxi operators were arrested in Port Elizabeth yesterday after disobeying a police order to disperse during a strike.

The group had marched to the Port Elizabeth magistrate's court where their leader was appearing on a charge of attempted murder.

Police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse them. Thousands of commuters in the city were left stranded as a result of the taxi operators' march.

Mbewana Matomana, regional chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Taxi Forum, said the strike was in reaction to the arrest of taxi forum chairperson, Melekile Hani last week.

"We have been working well with the municipality on the bus rapid transit system (BRT)," Matomana said.

"But on Thursday Hani was arrested by members of the SA National Defence Force on allegations of murder.

"What irks us is that he was arrested at the very meeting at which we were discussing BRT issues."

"If they wanted to arrest him why did they not arrest him at his house? We don't have any other means to respond to the bullying tactics of the SANDF except to strike."

Matomana said Hani played a major role in BRT negotiations and that his absence seriously affected the forum.

Commuters were not pleased with yet another strike after they had run the gauntlet of several taxi protests last year.

Nopinkie Yame, who works at Volks-wagen in Uitenhage, said: "It is unfair that they should just stop without giving us prior notice.

"Moreover, it bothers us that they harass some of the guys who transport us to work."

But, Matomana said: "We consulted the South African National Civics Organisation and tripartite alliance at a meeting at Nangoza Jebe on Sunday to inform them of the impending strike. We also made an announcement through a community radio station.

"We wanted these organisations to inform their members to make alternative arrangements."

Nokwakha Mapisa, a hawker in the city, said: "The strike has badly affected my business."

Ndumiso Peter of Sanco said the organisation supported the strike.

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