The South African National Taxi council says that the taxi industry employs more than 600,000 people and transports 15 million commuters per day.
The minibus taxi industry is believed to be serviced by as many as 300,000 vehicle, the majority of which are located in the country’s economic hub of Gauteng.
The concern however, is that the industry is still largely unregulated, which leads to numerous issues including unlicensed vehicles, violence, and the general safety of commuters.
In order to address these concerns, the Gauteng Provincial Government has appointed a five-member cabinet committee to ‘clean up all issues affecting the taxi industry’.
The committee is made up of MECs for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, Economic Development Lebogang Maile, Human Settlements, Local Government and Traditional Affairs Paul Mashatile and Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza.
Speaking at an indaba in Johannesburg on Thursday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said, going forward, the challenges of the taxi industry will be dealt with by this team of MECs.
Makhura further said that the provincial government has taken a decision to work with municipalities on handing over the maintenance of taxi ranks to the taxi industry in an effort to empower them to make extra income.
He said the taxi industry must organise themselves for this initiative to work. The taxi industry cannot continue to work in a survivalist mode, they should be at the heart of the provincial public transport system.
“We want the taxi industry to be involved in the expansion of the Gautrain. We also want them to be part of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system,” Makhura said.
In July government will have a 10-day programme to clear out all outstanding permit applications where applicants are compliant.
In addition, Makhura said the appointed committee will meet the metered taxi industry separately to look at all their problems. He noted that the metered taxis played an important role in the transport industry.
He said some of the issues raised would be resolved immediately such as the issuing of the operating licences for 22-seater vehicles.
Makhura said the Operating Licensing and Administration System receipt, which is given to operators who have applied for permits, will be taken as temporary permit.
General secretary of the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance (GNTA), Alpheus Mlalazi called for unroadworthy taxis to be removed from the roads, adding that the taxi industry deserves the same privileges as other modes of transport such as dedicated lanes.
Other challenges raised by the taxi operators included the development of new taxi ranks in new shopping malls, empowerment of women in the taxi industry, the need for regional offices to process taxi permits and different regulations in cross border and long distances routes amongst others.