Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has called on South Africans to have their say on the National Taxi Lekgotla discussion document.

The document, released on Friday by the Minister, seeks to drum up debate from all corners of society on ways to develop a blueprint for a sustainable and efficient taxi industry.

“Staring from the coming week, we will engage with stakeholders and civil society through various platforms that include all forms of media from print, radio and TV, digital platforms including social media and webinars. We invite every South African to contribute to the conversation about building a taxi industry of the future.

“Engagements will vary from meetings with the task team on virtual platforms, to written submissions that will be considered as part of packaging the final documents for the National Lekgotla,” said the Minister.

Provincial Makgotla, which will be held between 20 September and 20 October 2020, will be preceded by similar engagements at district level.

The outcomes of these debates will inform the consensus and must ultimately inform the consolidated National Taxi Lekgotla.

“We want the voices of every operator, commuter and any South African who believes they can contribute solutions to be heard,” said Mbalula.

To kick-start the debate, the discussion documents are packaged along four major themes. These are unity and leadership of the taxi industry, taxi industry empowerment model, taxi industry regulation and industry professionalisation and customer care.

In tackling the discussions about unity and leadership of the industry, Mbalula said the sector needs an honest and robust conversation about the key drivers of disunity and violence. 

“Unity in the industry remains a challenge, as violence and conflict driven by turf wars and leadership contestations continues unabated. Associations remain unregulated and operators are not held accountable for their conduct through effective law enforcement.

“The leadership of SANTACO, as a recognised industry representative body, is contested,” he said.

In order to address issues of unity, Mbalula said the industry must be able to speak in one voice if it is to succeed in entrenching a culture of accountability.

Industry empowerment model 

As an industry that generates revenue in excess of R40 billion per annum and consumes more than 2.1 billion litres of fuel per annum, the industry is tipped to become a model for real empowerment.

“Our discussions on the empowerment model depart from a principle that says any empowerment model must benefit the rank and file in the industry. We must ask hard questions about the billions that the government continues to invest in the industry in the form of the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme,” said the Minister.

Industry regulation

With regulation as the biggest challenge facing the industry, the Minister highlighted key areas that must be given thought. These include challenges relating to issuing of operating licences, which include long turn-around times, despite the 60-day turnaround time provided for in law. 

The industry has also raised sharply the issue of government officials, traffic officers and police officers who own taxis.

“Their participation in the industry fuels violence and weaken law enforcement as they are prone to intervene to protect their associations or friends,” said the Minister.

Mbalula also noted that the regulation of e-hailing services is getting urgent attention.

“The National Land Transport Bill that puts in place the regulatory framework has been passed by Parliament and is now before the President for assent,” he said.

Industry professionalisation and customer care 

Professionalising the taxi industry is also among the issues set to be discussed at the National Taxi Lekgotla.

“It is time the industry embraced a professional image and culture underpinned by respect for the commuter.

“The conduct of taxi operators on the road, displaying flagrant disregard of the law and rights of other road users, remains a pervasive problem. It is an open secret that self-regulation in this regard has failed,” said the Minister.

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