'Taxis will lose their operating licences or face harsh penalties,' says Mbalula on taxi violence

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has confirmed that taxi drivers might lose their operating licences or face harsh penalties if they engaged in violence.

On Monday, hearings regarding the commission of inquiry into taxi violence continued with South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) president Phillip Taaibosch revealing that Gauteng was the most hit province with taxi violence.

Taaibosch said the practice of collecting tariffs through a "bucket system" where money is paid weekly was one of the reasons behind the killings in the taxi industry and said lack of political leadership was to blame for the scourge not being addressed.

While releasing the discussion documents of the national taxi lekgotla on Friday, Mbalula said it was important that taxi violence needed to addressed among the leaders in the industry.

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"In tackling the discussions about unity and leadership of the industry, amongst others, we must have an honest and robust conversation about the key drivers of disunity and violence," he said.

Mbalula said the establishment of a council that represented all types of taxi operations in South Africa was needed.

"We know that the Santaco was established following a process that started in 1998. When it became apparent that other industry players were not on board the structure that was established at the time, a process that led to the inaugural conference of Santaco in 2001.

"While this may be the case, we must engage with the issues flagged by the National Taxi Association (NTA) and find each other on the shape and form of the council that will command the respect of everybody in the industry," he added.

The minister said a number of options needed to be considered in the role of the taxi industry leadership structures, along with rules that must underpin such leadership.

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"One of these is a proposal that when an individual is elected onto a council position, whether in the region, province or national, they must relinquish any position they hold in an association.

"This will then allow them to tackle industry issues free from any bias, whether real or perceived. In placing a premium on unity, the industry must accept that there is no room to tolerate violence and severe penalties must be meted out against those found to be party to such violence.

"This may include withdrawal of operating licences for such operators and other harsh penalties," he further said.

Mbalula further said that gender-based violence in the taxi industry remained "a source of serious concern".

"We must emerge with tangible actions which must include steps being taken by associations and other industry structures to ensure that those who continue to perpetuate this heinous crime are brought to book.

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"Further consideration will be given to punitive measures against these criminals, which must include banning them from the industry," he said.

The minister added that the training of operators and taxi workers was important to industry development and skilling programme.

"Interventions by various stakeholders such as the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA), the private sector and government must be coordinated such that that are all focused towards developing a professional cadre underpinned by standards that elevate the industry beyond its current levels of professionalism," he concluded.

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