President Cyril Ramaphosa says that government will convene a National Taxi Lekgotla this week in a bid to further formalise the country’s taxi industry.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, Ramaphosa said that the lekgotla will ‘seek common ground’ on existing business models, safety and compliance, broader economic empowerment of operators and the issue of subsidies for taxis.
It will also look at how to end the conflict and violence that continues to plague the industry because of competition on routes, he said.
“Most importantly, it must emerge with a blueprint for a formalised industry that plays a meaningful role in the mainstream economy and is effectively regulated.
“The taxi industry can and must play an important role in government’s ultimate objective of improving the daily experiences of commuters through the establishment of integrated rapid transport service networks in the metros, cities, towns and rural districts.”
Ramaphosa said that the taxis and public transport are a vital part of the country’s economic recovery plan and that the country cannot grow if people cannot get to work on time and safely.
He said that a well-functioning transport system has the additional benefit of alleviating road congestion and reducing travel times, energy consumption and air pollution.
“That is why we are going to invest in transport infrastructure systems that will carry people safely and in a manner that will contribute to economic growth.
“The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan I announced earlier this month acknowledges that improving transport infrastructure is central to economic growth and expanding industrial activity.”
As part of this plan, the government has embarked on projects to modernise and refurbish commuter rail networks alongside the expansion of road rehabilitation and maintenance programmes, Ramaphosa said.
“Upgraded transportation infrastructure coupled with improved public transport is a key driver of economic activity. Similarly, resolving the challenges facing a sector as important as the taxi industry is an important step towards transforming the public transport landscape.
“A formalised, well-managed, better-regulated minibus taxi system is in the best interests of not just those who use taxis daily. It is also in the interest of the development and progress of the entire society.”
Demerit system for taxis
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula previously said that conduct of taxi operators on the road – displaying flagrant disregard of the law and the rights of other road users – remains a pervasive problem.
In an address in September, Mbalula said that it was an ‘open secret’ that self-regulation in this regard has failed. Instead, he said that government was looking to other methods of regulation – including a possible demerit system specific to taxis.
“The discussions must give serious consideration to a penalty regime, which may, amongst others include a form of a demerit system similar to (the) Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto),” he said.
“Shoddy customer service and safety of commuters continue to characterise industry operations. In building a customer-centric ethos, the rights and interests of passengers and other road users, must always underpin the future taxi industry we want to build.”
The government hopes to improve driving on the country’s roads through the introduction of the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act.
The Act will do this through the introduction of a new demerit system for South African drivers, which is expected to fundamentally change driving in the country.
Depending on the severity of the offence, points are allocated for offences. If an infringer passes a points threshold, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.