Discussions to reform the country’s taxi industry kicked off on Thursday in Johannesburg. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula officially launched the National Taxi Lekgotla Public Discourse Platform, in Germiston. The Lekgotla will roll-out a series of engagements between industry players, stakeholders, businesses and civil society towards formalisation of the taxi industry. Government has pledged its support for the sector and is expected to subsidise the industry next year.

Mbalula outlined the main discussion points to be tackled at the National Taxi Lekgotla. The taxi industry is estimated to contribute R90 billion in revenue annually.

A series of engagements will continue until the end of October where stakeholders in the taxi industry will then hold a major indaba, where concrete plans will be adopted. Government wants to formularise the industry to ensure increased safety and convenience for commuters.

Mbalula says the sector remains unregulated, unstructured, does not comply with labour laws, is weak and ineffective due to a fragmented approach. He hopes the engagements will consolidate consensus, empower and unite the sector.

“I declared my intention to convene a national taxi indaba which will emerge with a groundbreaking compact that will take the transformation of the taxi industry to its logical conclusion. The history of the taxi industry is littered with gruesome tales of conflicts and violence and some of it does persist today, this is an industry that has pioneered its own growth.”

Meanwhile, the President of SANTACO Philip Taaibosch says they have lost trust in government after it abandoned plans to formalise the taxi industry three decades ago. SANTACO said government has failed to resuscitate the 1996 national task team (NTT) for the sector-which was supposed to formalise, unify and empower the industry. Taaibosch also slammed the high-interest rate environment in which the sector continued to operate.

“We are saying yes to regulation minister, yes to formalisation and yes to economic emancipation. South Africa is now in the sixth year with 25 years of democracy but the taxi industry remains unsubsidised. This despite accounting for 70% of the transportation of the employees. Taxi’s continue to be financed at high-interest rates despite statistics in South Africa showing the taxi industry as the most preferred mode of transport in the country.”

SANTACO on transforming the taxi industry

Mbalula agrees, he says the industry needs to be empowered.

“You contribute R40 billion as the taxi industry combined, it can be fuel and all that, but do you own anything in this industry that is the question we must ask. So we must fight for the real thing, ownership. The economic model in this country, if we talk about radical economic transformation, must be proven with this industry.”

Transport Department on a drive to reshape SA’s taxi industry

Treasurer General of the Black Business Council Bonolo Ramakhele says, “We have an interest wherever black businesses are operating and making sure they get the most equitable participation in any economic activity in the country. We are here to pledge support to this initiative, it’s quite historic and momentous. We look at the taxi industry as we are proud to say it’s a black-owned industry but when we dig in deeper and see who benefits from this industry, it’s not us. It’s people who are not sitting here because a certain percentage of the money, I think it’s R120 000 or so goes to the deposit of a vehicle and that deposit goes to a certain company and the taxi that is borrowing that money ends up partying with 25% for a vehicle.”

The national taxi indaba is scheduled to take place from the 29th to the 30th of October 2020. Stakeholders have more than a month to accelerate discussions and issues facing the sector. Build up to the national Lekgotla will include robust discussions on regulation, unity and professionalisation of the industry.

Mbalula says they will have discussion documents in the coming weeks through webinars. Resolutions that will be adopted in October that require legislation will then be taken forward.

Leadership structures will be established to represent the entire industry under the expected resolutions. Government says there are over there hundred thousand taxi operators on the ground.

The minister says challenges facing e-hailing services and the metre taxi industry will also be discussed and a solution found.

Launch of national taxi public discourse platform: Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula