Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Nqaba Bhanga has called on president Cyril Ramaphosa to step in and intervene in the Metro, amid violent protests by taxi drivers.
On Tuesday, taxi drivers embarked on a strike, claiming their bosses had kept Covid-19 relief funds to themselves.
The strike has brought the city to a standstill, affecting businesses, schools and hospitals. Township schools, and some shopping centres and clinics, are closed.
The strike has affected Gqeberha and Kariega, which is 30 minutes from the coastal town. Kariega is also serviced by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.
On Thursday evening, Bhanga said people who worked in various industries lost income because of the strike.
“If I can remind you that employment rate in Nelson Mandela Bay is at 42%. Which many of our people, innocent people who have nothing to do with the situation have lost their jobs because of this strike,” he said.
He said the taxi drivers and their bosses could have resolved their dispute peacefully.
“Major businesses who are investing into our city companies like VW, Isuzu, Aspen and many others have felt the strike hard.
Today (Thursday), there was a total shutdown in these investments,” he said.
Bhanga said the companies that had invested in the Metro employed hundreds of thousands of people.
“These companies are giving bread to households that are not less than 350 000”.
Bhanga said businesses in the Metro were complaining about investing in cities that were not stable and cannot assure sustainability in their investment.
“If we attack the economy and investment, it will affect many of our people and innocent people, and in this case, the people of Nelson Mandela have done nothing.”
Bhanga said the strike was crippling the Bay’s ailing economy . “The taxi strike is doing major harm”.
The mayor said he was engaging communities to bring calm to the chaos and had met the taxi drivers.
“There hasn’t been a resolution as yet as we are in the stages to find out who did what.”
He said he would continue to negotiate with the taxi drivers to find a solution.
He had also spoken to transport minister Fikile Mbalula about the matter.
“I promised to brief him after we have found a resolution with the taxi drivers.”
Six taxi drivers were arrested for burning tyres on the road.
The police said a case of malicious damage to property had been opened.
Meanwhile, eight buses belonging to the Algoa Bus company were set alight at the Motherwell depot on Wednesday night.
“At this stage, there are no arrests for the torched buses,” the police said.
While the police said they could not link the fire to the strike, Algoa Bus Company chief executive Sicelo Duze, speaking to BRO, said the incident was related to the protests.
“The six suspects, aged between 20 and 35, arrested on Tuesday, 25 May, 2021 on charges under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, 18 of 2015 – damage to infrastructure and public violence, will be appearing today in the Motherwell Magistrate’s Court,” the police said.
The six are due to return to court on June 13 for bail application.
At the same time as the protest in Gqeberha and Kariega, there is also civil unrest in Makhanda district which is unrelated to the strike in Nelson Mandela Bay.
In the Makhanda district, taxi drivers embarked on a service delivery strike with the community.
They are disgruntled over potholed roads, illegal dumping, and informal settlements that are without electricity, proper sewage systems and a reliable water supply.
The strike continues in NMB. This is a developing story.