Taxi lekgotla must change perceptions of industry, Ramaphosa says - as some don't pitch
The formalisation, regulation and economic empowerment of the taxi industry is at the forefront of government's endeavours to improve the industry, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
“This three-pronged strategy reflects the recommendations of the National Taxi Task Team set up in 1995 to look at the challenges facing the industry - 25 years later, we are taking stock of how far we have come,” he said.
Ramaphosa was addressing the national taxi lekgotla held in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, on Thursday. The three-day lekgotla is meant to address challenges faced by the industry and achieve consensus on its future.
Ramaphosa said a number of challenges that had tarnished the reputation of the industry had to be addressed.
“These include the issue of labour relations and allegations of exploitation of workers, the high number of road accidents involving taxis, the industry's response to the rise of e-hailing services and compliance with tax laws.
“We also need to address the conflict relating to competition over routes and associated acts of violence and criminality as we often see,” Ramaphosa said.
He said just as the taxi industry must overcome issues of safety and violence, the government remained committed to driving interventions that must strengthen the industry.
“That is why, among the issues that will be discussed at this lekgotla, is that of subsidisation. We have invested substantially in the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and will continue to leverage its potential.”
We must eradicate illegal operations that affect both the industry and government and are a catalyst for conflict.President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa said the government would be giving renewed attention to supporting business growth in the sector, especially to empower previously disadvantaged individuals such as women.
“I am pleased that issues like access to finance and skills development will also be discussed here, because they are crucial in determining whether a fledgling taxi business succeeds or fails.”
Ramaphosa said formalisation of the sector would mean greater regulation, and the compact that emerges from the lekgotla must be anchored in the rule of law.
“We must eradicate illegal operations that affect both the industry and government and are a catalyst for conflict.”
Ramaphosa said given its financial size, formalising the taxi industry was a vital step towards ensuring the industry's contribution to the tax revenue base.
The president said there were about 150,000 taxi business operators and that the industry employs about 400,000 people directly.
“We must speak as one on the need for professionalism. This lekgotla must be a turning point for an industry that is too often associated with disregard for the rule of law and the rules of the road, the abuse of customers and conflict.”
He said stakeholders must confront the associations of the taxi industry on allegations of sexism and gender-based violence.
“We must work together, as government and all industry stakeholders, to ensure that women are safe – and feel safe – when travelling by taxi.”
Mbalula: Time to speak out
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said this should not be another talk shop that produces more resolutions but a platform that delivers a pact to take decisive steps in turning around the fortunes of the industry.
“We must deliver a taxi industry that is formalised and empowered and is subject to the rule of law,” he said.
The minister said unity was sacrosanct and the “perverse incentive of conflict and violence must be eliminated”.
“It is time the industry spoke out against violence,” Mbalula said.
He said he was aware that some members of the industry decided not to be part of the lekgotla.
“I have taken this to heart and invited them to come,” he said.
“We have put on the agenda the issue of unity. One of the things is how do we bring other structures that have not become part of the bigger body of Santaco.”