take taxi industry seriouslY

THE taxi industry has become a sitting duck for public attacks - that are at times richly deserved.

THE taxi industry has become a sitting duck for public attacks - that are at times richly deserved.

The industry is known to hire drivers who show scant regard for the rules of the road and passengers' right to be treated with decency.

It does not help that they have a penchant for extreme and violent interpretations of the term "hostile takeover" of a rival business.

All of us who have used South African roads have a tale to tell about the loutish behaviour we have had to endure from individuals associated with the taxi industry.

But let us not forget that this is one industry that developed because of the appetite, money and efforts of its leaders: it is a multi-billion industry not because it got a helping hand from any government but despite attempts to drive it out.

The industry is also the lifeblood of the economy, ferrying millions of workers daily to the offices, factories, shops and homes of those too ready to look down on them.

The men (it is one of the most macho industries) who rule the roost might not have MBAs, but theirs is one of the most innovative industries to have been created in a long time.

Unlike the "blackoisie" that depends on their blackness and political connectivity for a stake in a business pie, these are people who have made it on their own and against all odds.

For that they deserve respect and not our scorn.

So the state must look beyond the caricature created by the chattering classes and accept that taxis did not become a big industry by accident.

We need to disabuse ourselves of the false impression that sedans and other road users never get involved in fatal accidents when the truth is that most road deaths are to be blamed on people in so-called "private cars".

The fact that a taxi carries more people than your sedan means that if either should be involved in an accident the taxi will report more casualties.

If we remove the sophistry, the "stigma" attached to the taxi industry is the same as that worn by another predominantly black industry - football. There are people who find it easy too dismiss the hard work of leaders in black-led industries and attribute everything to their inevitably being criminals.

It would seem obvious to anyone that because of the BRT the taxi industry will suffer some losses, which translates into the livelihoods of some people. It is something that needs to be dealt with. There isn't a single industry that will sit back when its livelihood is threatened. Why do we expect the taxi bosses to sit on their hands?

The assertion by the taxi industry that it has created the routes that BRT will use is now distorted to say that they claim to have created the "roads". This is again done to avoid dealing with the real issues the industry is raising.

The chattering classes might be used to shouting down everyone, but this tactic will not work in the taxi industry.

I am not as naïve to believe that the taxi industry is run as if it is the Girl Guides. But those who are treated as outsiders might feel that they have nothing to lose by embarking on anti-social behaviour.

Only when the taxi industry as a whole feels it is getting the respect it deserves, can it start accepting that where we disagree with them, it is on the merits of the arguments presented and not because of our prejudices.