South African minibus drivers strike over virus relief pay

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Minibus taxi drivers in South Africa’s most populous Gauteng province on Monday went on strike to demand more coronavirus relief funding.

The usually crammed privately-owned vehicles have been limited to 70 per cent 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) last Friday called for a shutdown of minibus services on June 22 and 23 after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced around USD63 million relief payment to registered taxi operators. The union called for “at least” USD1,154 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”.