By: Aphelele Mtwecu
A look at the impact of Cape Town’s taxi strike, reveals societal fractures and the importance of nurturing mental well-being.
The City of Cape Town and surrounding areas witnessed various scenes last week during as the City was brought to a violent halt as a result of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) led taxi strike.
This protest saw hundreds of people stranded on the roadside with no means of transport. Some of us stood on the roadsides for hours, hoping for a miracle, and others resorted to a few drinks, escaping the reality they faced, having to walk home from Cape Town city centre to their township areas placed on the outskirts of city life including but not limited to Khayelitsha, Nyanga, and Gugulethu more than 30 km’s out of the City.
People were looking for rides from passing vehicles to get home by hitchhiking. Others looked for Uber/Bolt rides that had over 200% hikes. In addition, others were trapped in lengthy traffic jams, unable to move for hours. Seeking temporary relief from the daunting predicament ahead, some resorted to drinks. The ultimate challenge lay in figuring out how to travel from Cape Town to various areas – with many left with the fate of walking home.
The tensions surrounding Santaco and Cape Town Municipality regulations reached their pinnacle last week, resulting in a taxi strike in the Western Cape. Spearheaded by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) (Ludidi, 2023), this strike materialized following a recent incident in Cape Town. According to a Daily Maverick report, a traffic official shot a taxi driver due to intoxication suspicions. This occurrence exacerbated an ongoing dispute around the newly adopted municipal bylaw.
The bylaw empowers the municipality to impound taxis rather than fine drivers, as many operate with vehicles that lack roadworthiness, possess expired licenses, or are unregistered. The tensions have left all stakeholders disgruntled, but we hope that the stipulated date or resumption of duties will be the promised 10th Of August 2023.
The taxi industry strike in Cape Town, among others we have witnessed in the past, consistently reveals the heaviness of hopelessness and frustration within our communities. The sudden eruption of unrelated mass action in regions such as Phillipi, Nyanga, Khayelitsha etc. targeted at vehicles and properties- primarily in already under-resourced areas, often perpetuated by residents, I may add—serves as a stark revelation of a society whose morals and rational compass has shattered.
The ripple effects of relentless poverty and inequality have manifested as a cry for socio-economic needs and reveal a mental health crisis. These incidents can make a person wonder: Can the mere provision of equitable land, resources, and economic opportunities truthfully be enough to mitigate this crisis? It has become evident that the mental well-being of our society is deteriorating.
A video on Twitter depicted a group of students from a local school in Cape Town, walking together in what appears to be a march. Due to the strike’s impact, these students have been affected and are unable to attend school. The narrative of this video is these primary school children are marching to nearby schools, where other schools are still operating. Now, whether the narrative is correct or not, a couple questions come to mind. Firstly, why have these primary school children, who are by law minors, permitted by their guardians to roam around the streets infested with violence? Secondly, education is known to be a beacon of hope to many South African’s what in these children’s minds drives them to halt the progress of those who are learning?
The violence that is always looming and on stand-by amidst every wave of any socio-economic crisis makes me wonder- Is the pursuit of equity, in fact, the crux of the issue?
From an ideological standpoint, perhaps it is true. Nevertheless, as history unfolds, we are witnessing a distinct form of violence that transcends what even our Fanon deemed necessary for the liberating of the colonized. This kind of violence is not aimed at the state-instead it is a direct onslaught of violence toward its people.
While the pursuit of equitable re-distribution remains pivotal and the core of our livelihoods, we need an equivalent amount of intentional will to assist in the restoration of the diminished fabric of society.
Might we reflect on how the significance of our collective mental resilience, alongside material provisions, could influence the fundamental essence of sustainable change?
While the complexities of our society are evident and palpable, the unattended fractures in our social well-being, shaped by a history of structural dispersion with exacerbated waves of violence, warrant a multifaceted approach.
Ludidi, V. (2023) Inner-city standoff: Taxi strike begins immediately across Western Cape, ranks emptied over by-law clash with city, Daily Maverick. Available at: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2023-08-03-western-cape-taxi-strike-begins-immediately/ (Accessed: 07 August 2023)
About the author:
I’m Aphelele Mtwecu, 2016 Activator, a 31-year-old female. As an ambivert, I am a content writer, activist, and creative. My true passion lies in youth development, transformation, and making a meaningful impact. Every day, I encounter the world, seeking healing, innovative solutions, and fresh methods to drive social change on my personal journey. My work and advocacy reflect my unwavering commitment to fostering positive change.