After many years of strife and violent conflict in the taxi sector, key role players have finally committed to working with the government to transform and formalise an industry which is estimated to be worth more than R50-billion a year.
It follows months of meetings with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula – the most recent a national taxi lekgotla which concluded last Saturday – and lessons learnt from the Covid-19 lockdown.
“It takes two to tango. There must be willingness from the industry’s side to accept the changes, and willingness from the government’s side to implement these changes,” South African National Taxi Council president Phillip Taaibosch told Vutivi News.
Regulating and formalising the sector was first put on the table by the government 24 years ago through what is known as the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme.
However, concerns from taxi organisations included that the state had not consulted them, specifications for vehicles were impossible as no minibuses existed at that time which would meet legal requirements, and unlike other public transport sectors, there was no subsidy.
But now it appears that the sector will change dramatically. Mbalula has agreed to introduce a subsidy by April next year, but only if the sector formalised. This would mean the industry would essentially have to become a registered business with benefits for its workers.
Commuters would also win because a subsidy would ensure that fares do not skyrocket and there would be less feuds over routes. “The time has arrived for the taxi industry to be formalised. Formalising the taxi industry will come a long way when it comes to recognising and employing taxi drivers and queue marshals on a full-time basis,” said Taaibosch.
He said the lockdown was an example of how crucial formalisation. An example was drivers not being paid because they could not claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
However, Taaibosch warned that taxi owners needed to be shown the benefits to get their buy-in.
“These issues must be tabled before both taxi drivers and taxi owners, and they need to be assured that there’s nothing to be scared of when it comes to employing a worker on a full-time basis.
“It must also be noted that taxi drivers are accustomed to receiving money on a percentage basis and formalising them might affect them receiving their usual share of the daily profits. These are issues that will also have to be discussed,” he said.
He said discussions would include that by not being a legal entity, operators were vulnerable, and it would help protect passengers, who were often victims in taxi wars.
“There are no written contractual agreements within the industry, and this is detrimental when we have to discipline members… It also affects the rights of the passengers, who are sometimes victimised by taxi drivers,” Taaibosch said.
A recent National Taxi Lekgotla agreed to a resolution that it would be ideal to bring all other forms of taxi transportation, including metered taxis and e-hailing taxis, under a single unified national council for taxis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who opened the lekgotla, said the industry was one of the most important sectors of the economy. “It makes it all the more necessary that there is transformation and empowerment with real benefits to the businesses involved,” he said.
And ultimately, the government’s ambition of having a public transport system that eventually works in unison, is impossible without a sector that transports nearly 70% of the country’s households.
READ MORE –