Court battle looms

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Despite President Thabo Mbeki's backing of the controversial taxi recapitalisation programme, the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) says it is forging ahead with its planned court action against the government.

The NTA, which is unhappy with the programme, decided on January 18 to take the Department of Transport to court in a bid to halt the programme.

The NTA's general secretary, Alpheus Mlalazi, said yesterday that Mbeki might not have been aware that they were taking the government to court when he delivered his state of the nation speech in parliament on Friday.

"If he was aware, that would mean intimidation of the judiciary," Mlalazi said.

Mbeki said the government would speed up the implementation of the taxi recapitalisation programme this year and would not be bullied by those opposing it.

He said: "Let me take this opportunity to emphasise that government and our partners in Santaco [South African National Taxi Association Council] will not be bullied into abandoning the taxi recapitalisation project, and any attempts to undermine public order in pursuit of selfish interests will be dealt with accordingly."

Mlalazi said that though court papers had not yet been served against the department, the court action would go ahead.

"We had a consultation meeting with our lawyers where they briefed us about the progress.

"They told us that once they had finalised the preparations the matter would surely go to court," he said.

Mlalazi said the NTA was not necessarily opposed to the government's plan to phase out old and unroadworthy minibus taxis, but said they were unaffordable.

Prices for the new vehicles range between R250000 and R300000.

Mbeki once called minibus taxis "mobile coffins".

Department of Transport spokesman Ntau Letebele said they would oppose the NTA's court action because the government was determined to transform the taxi industry.