Of course, the intended effect of a strike or any other industrial action is to demonstrate the value of the service that industry provides, simply by withdrawing it. And there’s no question that the taxi industry in Cape Town (and South Africa) provides a very valuable service.
However, if you then have to resort to intimidation and violence to prevent people from circumnavigating your withdrawn service, then that does rather undermine the message that your service is irreplaceable.
And not allowing individuals to make their own decisions about how they choose to get around has implications far beyond the apparently spurious reasons for calling the strike in the first place.
But it’s all become a power game now, and the taxi bosses don’t care that hundreds of thousands of breadwinners aren’t able to get to work, get paid and put food on the family table. They’re happy to overlook the fact that kids can’t get to school with exams just a couple of months away. They have no qualms about healthcare facilities for the most vulnerable being closed. And they might pass lip service about “peaceful protest” in open letters, but the fact is that they are more than happy to sit on their thrones while their underlings fight each other and everyone else.
If it’s a battle for hearts and minds – which so many of these disputes seems to come down to in the end – you’d think that maybe they’ve lost this one. But with the alternatives too sparse and too risky to use, it’s not like it won’t just be business as usual anyway when the strike ends (allegedly) on Thursday.