Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has called on taxi operators, taxi drivers and civil society to engage government on a plan that will see the taxi industry as an integral part of the formal economy.
The Minister made these remarks on Thursday during the launch of the National Taxi Lekgotla Public Discourse platform, which effectively dialogues with industry and civil society on topical issues that require resolution.
“The National Taxi Lekgotla will be a platform where we will consolidate consensus on sustainable ways to formalise and regulate the industry. This will be underpinned by an economic empowerment model that must benefit every single taxi operator and not just those in positions of leadership,” the Minister said.
He said the public discourse platform will provide an opportunity to stakeholders and civil society at large to contribute to the solutions that will place the country on a sustainable footing to deliver an industry of the future, able to sustain itself.
The Taxi Lekgotla Public Discourse is intended to create a platform for sustained momentum and public engagement towards the National Taxi Lekgotla, planned to take place at the end of October 2020.
The launch will then be followed by a staggered release of discussion documents and a structured roll-out of debates across all digital platforms to sustain the conversation and engage stakeholders in robust discussions on all identified themes of the National Taxi Indaba. These conversations will be led by the Minister and the MECs in various provinces.
“The launch of this public discourse platform is an invitation to the taxi industry, workers, commuters and the rest of civil society to engage with the discussion documents and take the opportunity to participate in formulating the blueprint for a taxi industry of the future,” the Minister said.
The discussion documents that will inform the content of the public discourse and discussions in the Provincial Makgotla and ultimately the National Taxi Lekgotla will cover the following themes: unity and leadership; industry regulation; industry empowerment model; professionalisation; road safety; customer service and commuter safety as well as Gender-Based Violence.
Industry empowerment model
The Minister said the Taxi Lekgotla must emerge with an empowerment model that truly empowers the industry with the real beneficiaries being individual operators.
“We have committed to re-imagining the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme such that the real beneficiaries of this massive public investment are taxi operators, rather than commercial banks, retailers and other corporates,” he said.
To date the government has spent in excess of R4 billion and will spend more over the next five years.
“The end game is a taxi industry that is able to recapitalise itself and the benefits of this business cascading down to the last operator on the ground.
Discussions on the industry empowerment will include the establishment of corporate entities as empowerment vehicles of choice to ensure economic benefits reach all operators in the industry.
Discussions about regulation will primarily revolve around operating licences and law enforcement.
“The challenges experienced over the years relating to the issuing of operating licences, which includes challenges of no responsiveness of municipalities to applications resulting in saturation of routes as these operating licences are issued without due regard to transport planning.
“The current planning framework and the extent to which it affects the issuing of operating licences will also come under scrutiny with a view to emerge with a model that advances our objectives,” the Minister said.
The discussions will also look at strong disincentives aimed at those who operate illegally with penalties that include monetary penalties, impoundment of vehicles, suspension of drivers’ licences or a combination of measures.
The Minister said the prevalence of Gender-Based Violence in the taxi industry remains a source of serious concern.
“This discussion has been muted for too long and it is time it is confronted head-on, and active measures must be put in place to address this decisively.
“Such measures must also include safety of women and children in the taxi environment, with particular emphasis on the girl child,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za