April 20, 2009

Taxi Council: Bus Rapid Transit System Must Stop Completely

The bus rapid transit (BRT) system must be stopped completely, South African National Taxi Council president Andrew Mthembu said on Monday.

“We are appealing and pleading … for us to meaningfully engage with this [BRT], let this thing come to a halt completely,” he told the taxi industry’s BRT Summit at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.

“We are here today to deal with the issue of bread and butter … all we are asking is for someone to assist us in protecting our bread … but if not, we will fight.”

The government, however, said taxi drivers would be retrained and absorbed into the BRT system. It had encouraged taxi owners to become shareholders in the scheme.

Mthembu said the industry’s plight had worsened over the past 14 years.

“For 14 years with a thorn in our flesh we have been limping, not embracing the fruits of democracy … we don’t want hand-outs, all we want is to protect that which we started.”

Before the industry could recover from the controversial taxi recapitalisation programme the BRT system was thrust upon it, he said.

“[W]e took it [taxi recapitalisation] by faith … and two years down the line when 80 percent of taxis are supposed to have been scrapped, we have only scrapped 22 000,” he said.

Santaco was concerned that the government had asked the taxi industry to register its routes and then proceeded to place the new bus system on those same routes without consulting it.

Addressing the summit, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe dismissed fears that jobs would be lost. Fifty percent of the taxi routes would not be affected by the BRT at all, he said.

“I want to state emphatically at the outset… government guarantees no loss of legitimate jobs and profits among those who make the shift into the BRT systems,” he said.

He, however, added that the government had a “responsibility to transform the public transport experience.

“Government is firm that we need to change in order to be sustainable and equitable and user friendly. No change is not an option,” he told delegates, who had given him a lukewarm reception.

The taxi industry was the “nucleus” of the BRT system, Radebe said.

Mthembu, however, complained that the government had done away with permits that were valid indefinitely and replaced them with new ones that were valid for seven years.

“The question is how do you begin to plan a business if you don’t have a future project?” he asked.

Disgruntled industry representatives handed a memorandum to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on March 24 during a protest against the BRT system.

Mthembu told ANC president Jacob Zuma, who was seated alongside Radebe at the Midrand venue: “Comrade JZ, the taxi industry is at the periphery of the economy.

“Msholozi understands the pain of the people because he is with the people.”

Mthembu also dismissed reports that the industry would boycott Wednesday’s election.

“We are going to vote,” he said.

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Taxi Council: Bus Rapid Transit System Must Stop Completely


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