Taxi Striks before 2010

MAYHEM erupted as hundreds of striking taxi drivers ran amok early yesterday, hurling stones at offices and passing cars, attacking municipal workers, setting a vehicle alight, blocking rush- hour traffic and crippling businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Amid widespread condemnation over the wave of violence, urgent talks between city officials and taxi representatives collapsed late last night with defiant drivers vowing the wildcat strike would continue today, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

Police, who yesterday drafted in reinforcements including the crack flying squad and rapid response unit members, will be on “high alert”. Police Captain Rassie Erasmus declared: “We will not let taxi drivers hold the city to ransom”.

The drama unfolded yesterday when more than 300 taxi drivers opposed to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system being implemented for the 2010 World Cup blocked major roads including the N2 freeway near Bluewater Bay and the Uitenhage road near Vista University.

Police arrested six people for public violence and confiscated “a number of taxis blocking the roads”. Motorists were left fuming in long traffic jams while many commuters were unable to get to work.

Traffic police and SAPS vehicles were stoned while a municipal vehicle was set alight outside Brister House in Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Police spokesman Captain Johann Rheeder said about 30 men ran up to a municipal car and smashed the windows. “They poured petrol on the car and set it alight.”

Yesterday‘s havoc follows an orgy of violence and looting, which raged in several parts of the city last November, leaving one person dead and others injured.

Police in Nyalas were deployed to quell the protests and officers were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said last night: “These violent actions do not belong in a peace-loving society.”

He added that workers at a BRT construction site in Govan Mbeki Avenue were attacked and offices stoned.

However a defiant metro public transport forum spokesman Melekile Hani told The Herald last night: “We are pledging our solidarity to our comrades. We are not going back to work! Until the municipality agrees to suspend work at BRT sites, and we secure the release of our arrested comrades, the strike continues. We apologise to commuters, but they must understand we are at war!”

Meanwhile, Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Odwa Mtati said the strike had “succeeded in causing maximum disruption” to businesses. “The shock of it was that no warnings were issued, so it‘s been very disruptive, especially since large parts of the industry only re-opened on Monday.”

The motor industry, particularly General Motors SA, was hit hard. GMSA spokesman Denise van Huyssteen said: “We are disappointed by the surprise strike, which has impacted on our ability to assemble vehicles.

“We only resumed full operations yesterday following a four-week break. Such actions send negative signals about doing business in this country, particularly at a time when we should be promoting political and economic stability.”

Eveready “definitely felt the impact of the strike”, spokesman Curt Bosman said. “Our workers on the afternoon shift have to leave earlier because they won‘t find taxis later, so we‘ll have to stop production. We might not even have nightshift.”

The DA also condemned the violence and chaos. Eastern Cape transport spokesman Pine Pienaar said: “The situation is just not acceptable”.

Kupido said the strike was especially disappointing “since this disruptive behaviour followed after an important meeting on Tuesday between the mayor and the industry.

“A task team consisting of representatives of the taxi industry and the municipality was established with the sole mandate to prepare for a transport indaba which will address the concerns of role-players in the industry.

“Despite this progressive step, some members of the taxi industry still went ahead with strike action and as a result inconvenienced many commuters who unfortunately rely solely on public transport.”

source : The herald

Ex-Bay woman blooms in Cope limelight

FOR a woman thrust into the political spotlight as the third in charge of newly formed Congress of the People (Cope) three weeks ago, Lynda Odendaal, who hails from Nelson Mandela Bay, shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Standing little over 1,5m tall the diminutive Odendaal, 44, has already shown her size has nothing to do with her political stamina, working almost non- stop during the most crucial time for party campaigners – the build-up to this year‘s elections in May.

“The first week was a bit of a challenge in terms of media coverage,” admitted Odendaal, who now lives in Johannesburg. She was speaking to Weekend Post in between busy meetings on Thursday.

“The (frantic way of life) is natural now, except for the media attention. But it‘s important we communicate with our members and potential members and I want to maintain that.”

Having grown up in Uitenhage where she attended Riebeek College, Odendaal later went on to study at commercial college Beckleys in Port Elizabeth. Then she wasted no time in getting into business.

“I‘ve been in commerce for the last 20 years,” she said.

She left her position as chief executive of Network Support Services, an information and communication technology company, to focus on her burgeoning political career.

An enterprising business woman, Odendaal also owns recruitment, development and human resources companies which she keeps an eye on while not strategising with party officials ahead of Cope‘s election manifesto launch in the Bay on January 24.

But she insists her foray into politics was never planned.

“I haven‘t been actively involved politically up until now,” she said. “I‘ve been more involved with issues like women‘s rights and transformation and I still want to play an active part because there is still a lot to be done in these areas.”

Despite her hectic schedule, Odendaal managed to spend some quality family time over Christmas, quietly sneaking back home to visit her parents Anna and John in Uitenhage from December 24 to January 4, with her husband André and 12-year-old son. She also has three grown up children.

“I was in church with my parents on Christmas Day. I sneaked in and spent some time with my family. It‘s important. You never know when you‘ll get that time again.”

The decision to name her as the second deputy president of the party came as a shock even to Odendaal who found out about her new position just hours before Cope was officially launched in Bloemfontein on December 16. Many had expected ex-ANC Eastern Cape Amathole region chairman Mluleki George to be third in charge, but he was named national organiser instead. Since the launch there has been no let-up from the media wanting to know more about the woman who until last month was relatively unknown.

Observers believe Odendaal‘s appointment was a deliberate bid to attract voters looking for a different profile to the ANC, as well as to further Cope‘s bid to be “an inclusive” party, rather than appealing to any one race group.

With her pale face and blonde hair, she stands out among the Cope leadership previously associated with the ANC.

While she burst onto the scene in a similar fashion to US Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Odendaal by contrast speaks with clarity and a definite strategy.

Having begun work with the party behind the scenes after being moved by a radio interview with Cope president Mosioua “Terror” Lekota, Odendaal said it was Lekota‘s talk of change which struck a chord.

source Weekend Post

Jobs boom follows R1bn plan to boost local content at VWSA

UP TO 1000 motor industry jobs could be created in the next nine months in the Eastern Cape following a R1billion investment plan unveiled yesterday by Volkswagen SA and component managers for Uitenhage.

VWSA managing director David Powels said the investments were being taken to “step up to the challenge and opportunity presented by the new automotive production and development programme (APDP) by attracting several key national and international component manufacturers to set up operations in Uitenhage”.

Powels said the R1bn investment came as a result of VWSA challenging components suppliers to “significantly improve processes and productivity levels to both survive and grow in the medium term”.

As a result, five suppliers were already establishing manufacturing facilities in the Nelson Mandela Bay logistics park established by the Coega Development Corporation, adjacent to VW’s Uitenhage factory. A sixth supplier would set up operations at the entrance to the Uitenhage industrial area.

The suppliers are interior plastic components manufacturer Faurecia Interior Systems, metal pressing parts manufacturer Bloxwich Industries, side mirrors and cables manufacturer Flextech, bumper systems manufacturer Rehau Polymer, and headliner and door panels manufacturer Grupo Antolin. Nelson Mandela Bay’s Bel-Essex Engineering was also in the process of constructing a new facility directly opposite the Volkswagen plant.

Volkswagen itself announced earlier this year that it would be investing more than R3bn in its own manufacturing and related activities from this year through to the end of 2010. That investment would also create several hundred jobs, Powels said at the time.

Yesterday, Powels said: “Our company has instituted an unprecedented focus on dramatically increasing manufacturing depth and extent of the local component supplier industry.

“The new APDP presents the opportunity to revolutionise the South African supplier component industry which has a long way to travel before it can claim global competitiveness.

“In terms of cost competitiveness, there’s an approximate 20% gap to manufacturers in Western Europe. The gap widens to more than 30% when comparing domestic automotive manufacturing cost structures to those in emerging automotive power houses such as India, China and Russia. There is only one way in which the automotive manufacturing industry in SA will be able to survive in the medium to long term – by securing much higher levels of local content. This includes the need to introduce new technologies and increase the use of local materials in the domestic component manufacturing industry.”

CDC chief executive Pepi Silinga said the initiative would send a positive message to the auto industry and strengthen the position of the region in the sector. “The positive impact of these developments to the economy of the Eastern Cape will be huge. They will bring dramatic shifts in people’s lives in the metro and in the province far sooner than expected.”

The VWSA announcement comes only days after General Motors in Port Elizabeth announced that it would shed 1000 jobs by the end of year, and Ford, with operations in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, said it would be shedding 800 jobs.

GM shed more than 400 jobs earlier this year and is now in the process of reducing its head-count by several hundred more, with more cuts planned through to the end of the year.

Source: The Herald, Avusa Group News