Grounded bus operators want licence fees back, says govt helps taxis with their money
None of their vehicles have been on the road since 26 March, whereas taxis now operate at 100% on long distance trips and received a R1.2 billion bailout.
The Private Charter Passenger Association (PCPA) has launched a petition encouraging various sectors within the embattled tourism industry to refuse paying pre-paid licence fees it claims are being used by government to support the taxi industry.
According to the association’s chairperson, Fiona Brooke Leggatt, attempts to contact the department of transport via email, the courts, phone calls and WhatsApp have fallen on deaf ears despite recent attempts to garner attention by staging a slow protest drive in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
She said the association is requesting a refund for the licences under the #REPAYLICENCEFEES movement, as none of its vehicles have been on the road since 26 March, whereas the recent relaxing of regulations under the advanced Level 3 restrictions allows taxis to operate at 100% on long distance trips.
“The government’s extension of one’s licence being valid assists the taxi industry and the scholar and route industry who are working and have been given bailouts of over R1.2-billion as well as receive government subsidies up to 90% whilst they not working, whilst we are left in the dark,” Brooke Leggat told The Citizen.
“The Private Hire markets individual costs per member are too high to sustain and they will all go under if not helped. All we are wanting is our licence fees that we pre-paid to government throughout the country back to ourselves on a pro rata basis, in order for ourselves to be able to assist with cash flow through to January 2021.”
In a trio of documents, provided to The Citizen, addressed to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula dated 25 May, 8 June and 5 July, the PCPA said that while talks have taken place with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) regarding the matter from government, “there has been no, alternatively inadequate, consultation with the private charter transport operators who also provide public transportation services, albeit not on a scheduled basis as the taxi or long-distance transport industries. This is extremely unfair”.
The document also states that the “financial hardships” experienced by the industry’s lack of operating is “unjustifiably aggravated by the inequities actions by Government to the extent that the actions could rightly be seen to violate the principle of legality applying to actions of the executive”.
In the most recent memo, the association says that the subsidies paid to taxis, but not to its members, are confusing and unclear.
“We do not object to subsidies to the taxi industry, rather, we fail to understand why our clients are continuously disregarded and left in the cold. It becomes more concerning when our client’s plight and request for rational and equal treatment or at least for some consideration, did not even evoke the courtesy of a reply from the Minister of Transport,” the document reads.
It further states that the majority of the 1 200 vehicle used by its members are certified with the South African Services Association, but are not allowed to operate, thus resulting in dire financial outcomes for its members.
“The domestic travel industry is barely off the ground with only business travel allowed at this stage, whilst international tourism is a distant dream.
“This situation simply means that our members, who for decades have been the mainstay of the tourism industry, are really facing a hopeless situation and unless there is urgent intervention and assistance from your Department and your colleagues in government, we are afraid that many well-known transporters providing vital services to the tourism industry will be no more”.