'Taxi owners dump association roles'

Santaco Gauteng chair Johannes Mkonza giving evidence before the taxi violence commission yesterday. /Veli Nhlapo
Santaco Gauteng chair Johannes Mkonza giving evidence before the taxi violence commission yesterday. /Veli Nhlapo

Taxi violence in Gauteng has gotten so bad that owners are abandoning their positions in associations in fear of their lives.

This is according to Santaco provincial chairperson Johannes Mkonza who testified before the commission of inquiry into taxi violence in Johannesburg yesterday.

Mkonza admitted that only 60% of taxi associations were run properly with executives meeting routinely and holding elective conferences every four years.

He said the prevalence of violence made it difficult for some of the taxi bosses to do their work and run associations.

"It is difficult to follow administration rules to the latter. You've got to run away and hide. When you stop on the street you have to look behind [you] because we are being attacked. While you are fearing for your life, on the other side you still have to manage an institution," Mkonza said.

In certain instances, he added, taxi bosses abandoned their positions due to violence and rogue elements takeover.

"They hijack the taxi ranks. These people come and collect money from taxis at the ranks, bring their vehicles on the routes and start operating," he told the commission.

Taxi violence has been a problem in Gauteng for years and this forced premier David Makhura to establish the inquiry to find the root causes and solutions for the problem.

One of the main drivers of conflict in the industry is the issuing of operating licences which is done by the provincial department of transport.

Mkonza said a number of taxi owners, even those under Santaco, did not have operating licences.

He said taxi associations only provided a letter of recommendation when a taxi owner applied to get the licence to operate.

The rest is done by the provincial department of transport.

But many taxi owners have since chosen to do a transfer of operating licensing instead of applying for a new one.

"You can buy an existing one and go and convert it. That process goes quicker than a person who is applying for a [new] licence," he said.

Some taxi owners, he said, were able to get operating licence without obtaining a letter of recommendation from the association.

Santaco in Gauteng has over 130 member associations.

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