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Transforming the taxi industry

Written by More Matshediso

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has invited the taxi industry, workers, commuters and the rest of civil society to take part in a public dialogue about the future of the taxi industry.

The aim of the initiative is to hear the needs and concerns of everyone involved – including commuters – so that their opinions can be taken into account when key stakeholders in the taxi industry draw up a plan to formalise and regulate the industry.

The Minister says the taxi industry must benefit every single taxi operator and not just those in positions of leadership.

Various means will be used to get people’s opinions before provincial Makgotlas are held between 20 September and 20 October on virtual platforms (online). These provincial events will feed to the National Taxi Lekgotla scheduled to take place on 29 and 30 October 2020, at the end of Transport Month. 

Minister Mbalula foresees that the national taxi indaba will transform the taxi industry in a ground-breaking manner.

“The outcomes of this Lekgotla will not be lip service, but a tangible and achievable programme of action that will set the industry on a sustainable path,” says the Minister.

He says the National Taxi Lekgotla will be about re-imagining a taxi industry of the future, where it is a major player in the economy.

The build-up towards the Lekgotla will consist of the following activities:

  • The public discourse platform – a dialogue with industry and civil society on topical issues that require resolution.  
  • The release of discussion documents and a structured roll-out of debates across all digital platforms to sustain the conversation and engage stakeholders in robust discussions on all identified themes of the National Taxi Indaba. These conversations will be led by the Minister and the MECs in various provinces.
  • A task team will engage with various stakeholders on proposals and other themes to inform the discussions.
  • Webinars targeting thought leaders, opinion-makers and other stakeholders will be held to share perspectives and enrich the conversations.

The discussion documents that will inform the content of the public dialogue and discussions in the Provincial Makgotlas and ultimately the National Taxi Lekgotla, cover the following themes:

  • unity and leadership
  • industry regulation
  • industry empowerment model
  • professionalisation.

In addition, the Minister says discussions will also include road safety, customer care and commuter safety, and gender-based violence.

Black Business Council Treasurer General Bonolo Ramokele represented the business fraternity at the launch of the Taxi Lekgotla Public Discourse Platform and pledged support to the national dialogue.

He says at the end of the indaba, he would like to see economic freedom and economic empowerment for black people, who are the owners of the industry.

“Government has in the past few years spent about R5 billion on the recapitalisation programme in the industry but the majority of the funds did not go to the real beneficiaries. For example, a certain percentage would go towards a deposit for a vehicle which in the end, benefits a certain company. We want to pledge our support to ensure that black people are the real beneficiaries of such programmes,” he says.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa’s Godfrey Selematsela represented labour and also pledged his support towards formalising the industry.

He says this will bring solutions to the many challenges facing the taxi industry, which is necessary in view of its important contribution to South Africa’s socio-economic growth.

“The taxi industry is still one of the preferred modes of transport in the country, transporting 68 percent of 5.4 million commuters daily. It is made up of about 200 000 vehicles, it contributes about R40 billion per year to the country’s economy, and it has created about 250 000 direct and indirect job opportunity, including drivers, taxi marshals and admin support,” says Selematsela.

South African National Taxi Council President Phillip Taaibosch and South African Local Government Association President Thembi Nkadimeng both welcomed the regulation of the industry, with Nkadimeng pledging her support on behalf of all municipalities.