Taxi industry cruising towards reform, Fikile Mbalula tells lekgotla
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula is optimistic that the taxi industry is speeding towards reform.
Mbalula expressed his hopes at the closing of a three-day lekgotla, meant to address challenges besetting the industry, at the Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni on Saturday. The lekgotla was attended by delegates representing the “taxi industry and all its subsectors, government and various organs of civil society”.
Mbalula also released a declaration adopted at the lekgotla.
The delegates noted that “unity remains a challenge in the taxi industry” and that it “continues to operate on the fringes of the formal economy with limited benefit from the industries it supports through its massive buying power”.
The regulation of the industry remains weak and fragmented and enforcement of the law is further undermined by public servants and officers of the law who have business interests in the industry, the declaration reads.
The delegates also undertook to fight gender-based violence in the troubled industry and that “penalties and sanction for those who perpetuate these crimes and are found guilty must be sanctioned as an operator”.
Technology was among the opportunities identified as key to the taxi industry’s growth while illegal taxi operations were singled out as catalysts for conflict.
“Gender-based violence, femicide and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community is a major obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace. It robs women, girls and members of the LGBTQI+ of their human rights and freedoms as enshrined in the country’s constitution,” the declaration reads.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents opportunities for growth and innovation, for the taxi industry to propel itself into the digital era with the adoption of cutting-edge technologies that meet commuter-evolving transport needs.”
The delegates also reaffirmed the SA National Taxi Council as “an apex industry representative body”.
“We call upon all stakeholders and all subsectors within the industry to forge a compact aimed at transforming the industry into a formalised and professionalised economic sector that delivers world-class services to the majority of commuters within the republic,” the declaration reads.
“We imagine and envisage a future wherein the taxi industry is an important contributor to the economic development, the tax base of the country and livelihoods of operators involved in the sector. We call upon all those involved in the value chain of the taxi industry to join hands with government and other stakeholders in achieving these noble objectives.”
Mbalula waxed lyrical about the lekgotla.
“The robust engagements in the commissions not only demonstrated your commitment to the process, but also reflects the seriousness with which you take the issues under consideration. We brought together the minibus taxi industry, the metered taxis and e-hailing providers in order to engage in conversation,” he said.
“The declaration we adopted this morning is a testament of our determination to tackle the intractable challenges confronting this industry. This is a journey we will travel together. We were under no illusion that this lekgotla will be a turning point in the history of this industry, with ground-breaking resolutions that will lay down the foundation for an industry of the future that is regulated, formalised and empowered.”
Mbalula sang the lekgotla’s praises for addressing deep-seated challenges in the taxi industry.
“The lekgotla has made a clear and unambiguous statement on violence and conflict,” he said.
“Your declaration that violence, in all its manifestations, including gender-based violence and the violation of the rights of members of the LGBTIA+ community has no place in the industry is welcome. We must then take decisive action to eliminate this cancer that casts a shadow on the taxi industry.
“Today the taxi industry has proclaimed loud and clear that it will not tolerate anyone using violence as a means to achieve their narrow self-serving ends in its name. This is a bold and unprecedented step that future generations will smile upon.”
Mbalula also hailed the industry’s commitment to obey labour laws.
“A commitment to the sectoral determination for the taxi industry and ensuring compliance with the country’s labour laws is a welcome development, worthy of celebrating. These steps are an expression of an industry poised to shed its image as a relic of the past and ready to embrace its future as a professional industry that places the interests of the commuters, the workers and other road users at the centre of its operations,” said Mbalula.
“The participation of this industry in the subsidy scheme is no longer a pipe dream, but a realisable goal we intend to see becoming reality in the coming financial year. Various business models were considered by the lekgotla and your commitment to consider the mix which includes companies, banking co-operatives, public companies is encouraging and government remains ready to work with you on the modalities of the selected model.”
He said inasmuch the laws should be tough on taxi operators who violate the industry’s provisions, “it must equally sting public servants and officers of the law who use their positions of authority to advance their personal economic interests in the industry. This is a non-negotiable that will find expression in our efforts to implement a robust regulatory model steeped in fairness and in ensuring the constitutional injunction that all citizens are equal before the law is a lived reality.”
Mbalula undertook to appoint a panel of eminent persons to enhance unity and leadership in the industry.
“This panel will look at the modalities of the unified taxi industry, including the iterations of how the subsectors will work within the confines of a single industry body,” he said.
“The next step in taking this process forward is the establishment of a joint team to oversee implementation and guide other processes that must result in a full-scale implementation of what we agree to. This will be a team made up of representatives from the taxi industry and government. This team will take forward the consultation process with other stakeholders. More so, on all matters not fully ventilated at this lekgotla.” He said the task team, which will complement the work of government, will report back to him in the next three months.