Minibus Taxi Strike

A fleet of about 7,500 minibuses transports 332,000 passengers in Cape Town every day. In March, the minibus associations decided to strike as a protest against the government’s impounding of illegal vehicles and the soon-to-open MyCiti BRT system. A number of the 6,300 taxi owners opposed the two-day strike (the Mitchells Plain Taxi Forum did not participate), but for the most part, owners followed the directives of the powerful taxi associations. Violence during the strike supported Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin’s assessment that the industry is “riddled with warlordism.”

Strike-supporters stoned dozens Golden Arrow buses (which are heavily subsidized and, when the minibuses are running, often nearly empty), forcing them to unload on the N2 freeway instead of entering Nyanga and Khayelitsha. Strikers also attacked school transport, injuring special needs students. Thousands of school children who rely on minibuses for their trip to school were stranded. At Trafalgar Secondary, 60% of students were absent during the first day of the strike. The Cape Times went on to report:

“In addition to these and many other incidents of violence, there has been massive intimidation of the bulk of the industry who are opposing the strike,” [MEC Transport] Carlisle said. “As we speak, pro-strike elements are moving into Mitchells Plain where taxis are still operating. There can be no question that their intentions are violent.”

I stayed clear of the bricks and rubber bullets and snapped a couple pictures of some empty taxi ranks, comparing them with similar shots on a normal day:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

Jammie Shuttle

I started my time in South Africa by sitting in on a ten-day seminar about globalization, poverty, and the environment. This seminar’s focus on the country’s economic disparities, environmental challenges, and history of apartheid spatial planning served as an excellent introduction for my time in South Africa. It expanded my thinking about issues linked to transportation; for example, as one lecturer noted, the long commute times of South Africans who rely on minibus taxis tend to discourage home-cooked meals, undermining markets for fresh produce in township areas and increasing urban food insecurity. I learned a lot from the field trip focused on housing and water infrastructure in the Cape Town area. The seminar also helped me learn to appreciate the importance of cricket and braaing in South Africa.

To reach campus from the house I was staying at in Kenilworth, I relied on the University of Cape Town’s Jammie Shuttle. The free service’s different routes connect UCT’s campus, located on the slopes of Table Mountain, to nearby residential areas and public transport interchanges. When the Jammie Shuttle was inaugurated in 2002, the Mowbray/Claremont Main Road sector of the minibus taxi industry feared the new shuttles would be competing unfairly, so they blockaded routes and threatened violence. Successful negotiations between the University and minibus taxi representatives prevented serious problems.