'State fails to understand our victory'

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Taxi operators say the Transport Department still fails to understand the implications of a high court judgment they claim has halted the government's taxi recapitalisation programme.

The programme was conceived to bring the taxi industry under formal control. The measures were meant to "force operators to apply for new licences" and "to compel them to register as taxpayers".

This week Durban high court Judge Noel Hurt ruled in favour of taxi operators in KwaZulu-Natal who had appealed against Transport Minister Jeff Radebe's deadline for them to convert their old permits to new licences.

The taxi operators won the court case on a technicality. The judge ruled that "the minister, having determined August 31 2005 as the cut-off date, did not have the power to extend that date as he purported to do".

After years of delays, the deadline for the project was set for August 2005, but was later extended a few times to May last year. Judge Hurt's ruling will affect the department's plans in all provinces.

Hurt said the relicensing programme had failed mainly because of "indolence on the part of the taxi operators, combined with a lack of capacity in administration".

The judge said it was unclear what efforts taxi operators had made to legitimise their operating permits.

Transport Department spokesman Colin Msibi said the judgment did "not in any way affect the taxi recapitalisation programme", reports Sapa.

National Taxi Alliance chairman Sicelo Mabaso said "they do not understand that the judgment means that people who do not have permits will still be on the road".

The recapitalisation programme was conceived partly to bring the chaotic industry under some form of government control, but rogue operators and their associations have been contesting the effort at every opportunity and have been able to delay the plan for more than a decade.