Fikile Mbalula taxi

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Santaco President Phillip Taaibosch prior to the launch of the National Taxi Lekgotla on Thursday 20 August. Photo: Twitter/Department of Transport

Taxi Lekgotla: Mbalula wants to ‘dignify industry’ through formalisation

Speaking at the launch of the National Taxi Lekgotla on Thursday, industry members convened to pave a way towards formalising the sector.

Fikile Mbalula taxi

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Santaco President Phillip Taaibosch prior to the launch of the National Taxi Lekgotla on Thursday 20 August. Photo: Twitter/Department of Transport

The Department of Transport has on Thursday 20 August hosted the launch of the National Taxi Lekgotla in order to convene stakeholders involved the ongoing dispute over the formalisation of the taxi industry in South Africa, something that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said needs to be achieved to provide industry members with dignity. 

Hosted in Germiston, Gauteng, where a taxi scrapping demonstration was held in the morning, Mbalula led a discussion between members of his department, as well as the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco), the Black Business Council, Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), saying that in order to formalise the industry, unity needs to first be achieved between all relevant parties. 

‘Formalisation of taxi industry requires unity’ – Mbalula

Delivering the keynote address on Thursday, Mbalula said that unity, formalisation, empowerment, and subsidisation of the industry needs to be achieved in the sector, at which point collective attention can be turned to ensuring a sense of professionalism within the industry, something that Mbalula has been keen to see for some time now

The following are concerns that Mbalula hopes to consult with industry stakeholders about during the Lekgotla: 

  • Converting taxi businesses into corporate entities such as private companies and/or co-operatives;
  • Compliance with the country’s tax and labour laws, which includes implementation of the Minister of Labour & Employment’s sectoral determination for the taxi industry;
  • Standardising establishment, leadership processes and participation of members in the activities of Associations through a Standard Constitution;
  • Introducing legally binding mechanisms for the Minister to recognise a single industry representative body to give effect to the objectives of establishing SANTACO and supporting industry initiatives;
  • Issuing of Operating Licences, which includes challenges of non-responsiveness of municipalities to applications resulting in saturation of routes as these operating licences are issued without due regard to transport planning;
  • Institutional arrangements relating to the efficacy of the Provincial Regulatory Entities (PREs);
  • Devolution of the operating licence function to municipalities and establishment of Municipal Regulatory Entities (MREs);
  • Operationalisation of the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) that is able to exercise its full mandate, which includes adjudicating over fare increases across public transport modes.

‘Taxi operators must play their part’ – Mbalula

Mbalula said that the engagements he is proposing – which would see stakeholders in the sector gather for discussions on 29 and 30 October 2020 – will carry far more importance than the general debate between government and industry leaders that has been unproductively held over many years. 

“It is 26-years in to democratic freedom, and you [taxi operators] contribute R40 billion to the taxi industry [each year], but do you own anything in this industry?” Mbalula asked. 

“Unity in the industry is sacrosanct. There are areas where we are not in agreement, but this platform will provide us with an opportunity to engage and find each other.”

He emphasised his desire for the taxi industry to emerge as a major player in South Africa’s economy after it is formalised and provided the necessary tools it needs to flourish. 

“[The Lekgotla] will be about reimagining a taxi industry of the future, where it will be a major player in the economy,” he said, adding that taxi operators and industry leaders need to play their part too if they want to engage productively on the matter. 

He bemoaned the lack of tax-paying members of the industry, saying that this is a point of contention between himself and Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch. 

“Many operators do not contribute to the corporate tax base in the industry. This is something that Mr Taaibosch and I argue about all the time,” he said. 

Subsidisation talks ongoing 

Mbalula sympathised with members of the industry, who he believes are providing thankless service to their 15 million daily commuters, with operators and drivers not eligible for any government relief or pension schemes. 

“The industry does not give you anything,” he said. “You get up, go to work, and when you die, you just die.” 

“This is a black industry – gone are the days when black people owned taxis for white people – and it is time that you are rewarded for your work.” 

He added that subsidisation of the industry, which is a major demand of Santaco and its affiliated associations, is something that he is currently engaging with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni about, and said that there are many areas that need financial support in order for them to flourish. 

“Discussions are set to be finalised with National Treasury in order to implement subsidies,” he said.