'Taxis taken for a ride'

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

The South African taxi industry has hit a bumpy road because of the recapitalisation programme.

The R7,7billion programme, which will be implemented over a period of seven years, was launched in October to improve the transport system.

But not everyone is happy.

Most vocal and disapproving of the programme has been the National Taxi Alliance (NTA), a body that has members in eight provinces. The organisation is absent only in the Northern Cape.

The alliance launched a full-scale attack on the programme, and demanded that it be "scrapped immediately" because it was too expensive for taxi operators.

The NTA has threatened to take the government to court and go on strike should it lose the court battle.

NTA secretary-general Alpheus Mlalazi said the new vehicles, priced between R195000 and R350000, were not only expensive but its members would lose as much as R3500 a month using them.

At R115000, Mlalazi said the Siyaya taxis, with approval from the South African Bureau of Standards, were the most affordable and reliable models.

But by continuously changing their safety specifications, the government was trying by "all means to get them off the roads".

"Any vehicle is as safe as it is driven and maintained," said Mlalazi, adding that road conditions also influenced passenger safety.

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) is the only taxi body recognised by the government. The NTA calls it a "puppet structure" .

"The government only gives money to those who support their programmes. The taxi recap programme is a scheme between the government and Santaco," said Mlalazi.

Santaco represents the taxi industry in all nine provinces and has a 30percent shareholding in the recapitalisation programme.

"The NTA must stop lying to the public," said Santaco secretary- general Phillip Taaibosch.

"Operators have a choice to buy vehicles they can afford and to suit their circumstances."

Taaibosch said the NTA had stayed out of negotiations out of "choice".

The government said it is sticking to its guns.

"The programme will continue unabated," said Transport Department spokesman Ntau Letebele.