Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, on Friday 11 September 2020, released discussion documents which will inform the content of conversations with the taxi industry at its upcoming national lekgotla.
Mbalula said this is an industry that has tremendous potential to become a model for empowerment.
"This is an industry that generates revenue in excess of R40 billion per annum and consumes more than 2.1 billion litres of fuel per annum," he said.
Mbalula said it was on that basis that he prioritised the tackling of the difficult issues facing the industry and convened a National Taxi Lekgotla.
A BLUEPRINT FOR THE TAXI INDUSTRY'S SUSTAINABILITY
The first administration of democratic South Africa initiated the National Taxi Task Team (NTTT), under the able leadership of Minister Mac Maharaj, to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the industry and to develop a blueprint for its sustainability. The final recommendations of the NTTT were a product of robust and honest engagement with both the industry and civil society.
"We are still grappling with intractable challenges that have proven to be bottlenecks in the transformation and development of the taxi industry. The National Taxi Lekgotla will be about re-imagining a taxi industry of the future, where it is a major player in the economy," said Mbalula.
The roadmap towards the National Taxi Lekgotla, which will take place on 29 October 2020, starts with the rollout of the Public Discourse Platform that was launched on 20 August.
NATIONAL TAXI LEKGOTLA: STIMULATING DEBATE AND DISCUSSION
Mbalula said the discussion points are intended to stimulate debate and discussion and do not represent any hard and fast position of government or any industry structure. The outcomes of these debates will inform the consensus that must emerge from the Provincial Makgotla and ultimately be consolidated at the National Taxi Lekgotla.
The discussion points were listed under four major themes;
Unity and Leadership of the Taxi Industry;
- Taxi Industry Empowerment Model;[*]Taxi Industry Regulation and; [*]Taxi Industry Professionalisation and Customer Care.
Looking at the taxi industry empowerment model, Mbalula said hard questions must be asked about the billions that government continues to invest in the industry in the form of the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme.
"We must have an honest conversation about who the real beneficiaries are of these investments so that we can make decisive interventions that enable the industry to become the primary beneficiaries," he said.
Mbalula said the department has made a firm commitment that the time has arrived for the taxi industry to benefit from the subsidy scheme.
"The subsidy scheme will form an integral part of our economic package for the industry," he said.
Regarding industry regulation, Mbalula listed key issues in addressing the framework for the industry:
Challenges relating to issuing of operating licences, which includes long turn-around times despite the 60-day turn-around time provided for in law;
- The industry has raised sharply the issue of government officials, traffic officers and police officers who own taxis. Their participation in the industry fuels violence and weakens law enforcement as they are prone to intervene to protect their associations or friends;[*]The current fragmented approach which relies on the capacity of individual provinces to enforce public transport laws and weak support from the SAPS creates a culture of impunity;[*]The discussion will seek to address the challenge posed by the prevalence of illegal operators. Out of the estimated 200 000 taxis in the country, it is our estimate that approximately 63 000 of these operate without operating licences and therefore illegal; and [*]Regulating e-hailing services is getting urgent attention. The National Land Transport Bill that puts in place the regulatory framework for regulating e-hailing services has been passed by Parliament and is now before the President for assent.