This three day national taxi lekgotla should not be another talk shop that produces more resolutions, but rather a platform where stakeholders must be bold and step out of their comfort zones and deliver a pact that will enjoin them to take decisive steps in turning around the fortunes of the industry, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday.
Mbalula is self-isolating after possibly being exposed to Covid-19 at a fundraiser event over the weekend. He addressed various stakeholders attending the lekgotla in Boksburg in Ekurhuleni on Thursday via a video link.
“This national taxi lekgotla takes place at the backdrop of the October Transport Month, a period where we showcase our achievements as a sector and how we continue to transform the lives of ordinary people through investments in transport infrastructure,” he said.
“This lekgotla and the outcomes it must deliver are firmly grounded in our broader vision for a public transport system that is responsive to the needs of the people, playing its part in the economic value chain.”
Mbalula said the taxi industry was “a sunshine industry endowed with endless possibilities and unrivalled potential”.
“As pioneers and trailblazers who grew this industry from humble beginnings, you soldiered on when the odds were stacked against you. The events that came to pass in the 1980s shaped and defined the character of this industry.
“The consensus that emerged out of the National Taxi Task Team (NTTT), established by the 1st Administration, laid down the foundation for the future that we seek. It set in motion a developmental trajectory that will not only transform the face of the industry, but has tremendous potential to position it as a major player in the country’s economy.
“Ours is to take the processes that emerged from the NTTT to their logical conclusion. We must deliver a taxi industry that is formalised and empowered, and is subject to the rule of law,” the minister said.
“While we may celebrate the many achievements of the taxi industry, we must equally confront the bad and the ugly, if this industry is to transcend its character as violent, unprofessional and undermines the rule of law with impunity.”
Unity is sacrosanct
Mbalula said unity in the industry was sacrosanct and that the perverse incentives for conflict and violence had to be eliminated.
“The pact we must emerge with out of this lekgotla must demonstrate the seriousness with which we regard this matter. It is time the taxi industry spoke out against violence and proclaim for all to hear: ‘Not in our name.'”
He said former president Nelson Mandela, delivering his State of the Nation Address in February 1996, had this to say about the taxi industry: “A particular feature of crime in our country is the violence afflicting KwaZulu-Natal, the taxi industry, as well as bizarre incidents of gang warfare and other murders. By any name and under any guise, this is criminal conduct; and it should be dealt with as such.”
Mbalula said realising the formalisation, regulation and empowerment of the taxi industry would be “the game changer required” to fundamentally transform the face of South Africa’s public transport system.
“When the first democratic government came to power in 1994, it inherited a taxi industry that was in a state of crisis,” he said.
“The NTTT was established in April 1995 with a mandate to investigate the problems and issues within the taxi industry and formulate solutions and policy options. This was meant to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry, positioning it to play an equitable and competitive role as an integral part of an effective and efficient public transport system.
“It is evident that – despite government intervention to support the taxi industry through numerous initiatives – the industry is still characterised by oversupply, decreasing revenue, poor infrastructure and uncontrolled competition on routes. This has become a source of ongoing conflict and violence.”
No holy cows
He said that this national taxi lekgotla was meant to address challenges facing this industry and achieve consensus on the blueprint of the future taxi industry, anchored on formalisation and a subsidised industry, as an integral part of a broader economic empowerment model.
“As you go into commissions to deliberate on the various themes of the discussion documents, there must be no holy cows in such discussions.
“We expect nothing short of robust, honest and constructive engagements that will lead us to an implementable action plan towards a prosperous future.”