August 19, 2009

‘Put Bus System on Hold’

The proposed bus rapid transport system in Gauteng should be put on hold until the minibus taxi industry’s involvement is outlined, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) said on Monday.

A letter would be sent to the transport minister on Tuesday calling for a summit of all interested parties to be convened, Santaco’s general secretary Philip Taaibosch told journalists in Pretoria.

“If this is not done, we are not going to fold our arms.”

He said the taxi industry was not opposed to the Gauteng transformation strategy, however the taxi industry needed to be involved as it was an integral part of the transport system and did not understand how the new initiative would impact the industry.

The manner in which municipalities were handling the BRT, a new bus system for Johannesburg and Pretoria, was brewing conflict and distrust, Taaibosch said.

This would not only delay actual implementation, but also incur costs that could be avoided.

He said the taxi industry moved the largest percentage of the commuting public and yet the industry was not involved in the BRT system.

“By this attitude the government is simply disempowering the taxi industry.”

Chairperson of the Eldorado Park Taxi Association John Mojela said the City of Johannesburg had notified him that 150 routes in the city would be eliminated by 2010 and 10 in Alexandra, starting in 2009.

“We cannot compete with the BRT, that is our major problem,” he said.

Another official from the Eldorado association Ralph Jones said the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane had not outlined how the taxi drivers were going to be accommodated.

He said taxi routes created employment for other sectors such as car washers and food merchants.

“We can’t give something a green light when we look at it and it’s not convincing,” said Jones.

Santaco spokesperson Thomas Masase said it was a wonder why government had not chosen instead to improve the image of the taxi industry – since it had the largest commuter base – and launch a Taxi Rapid Transport System.

“We have gone through a lot of transformation. We need to be taken as public transport not as taxis,” he said.

Taaibosch said the letter to the minister would be sent on Tuesday and government would be given 14 days to respond to its call to cease operations and convene a summit.

“We are warning municipalities who normally use dirty tactics to divide the taxi industry… those will be to the detriment to the municipalities,” Taaibosch said.

Transport Department spokesperson Colin Msibi said the minister was aware of Santaco’s – and the taxi industry’s – concerns regarding the BRT.

He said the minister met with Santaco and then subsequently with the City of Johannesburg.

“The Minister reassured them that the taxi industry is the nucleus of the BRT system and that there is no way it can go ahead without the maximum participation of the taxi industry,” he said.

Msibi said all the concerns would again be addressed in a follow up meeting with the Minister.

A date was not immediately known.

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‘Put Bus System on Hold’


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