Over the past few weeks leading to October Transport Safety Campaign awareness nothing so much substance has been said on the issue of the much-talked about Taxi Indaba set for October.
Given the current toxic economic and political climate sadly created by the furore over the staggering extent at which corrupt civil servants in government misused and cheated government processes to push for companies and entities owned by their friends and relatives to secure lucrative tenders to supply protective personal equipments (PPEs), it would therefore not be far fetched for some taxi leaders and experts to have doubts over the preparedness by both role players to hold the event. Gibela Magazine has reliably learnt that already there are some sounds of discontent among leading figures in the minibus taxi industry about the lacklustre manner in which the first Taxi Lekgotla consultative forum was firstly arranged and set up.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) have been in the forefront of championing the cause of taxi operators since the country went into lockdown on 27th March, slugging it out on a number of issues affecting the taxi industry while also trying to find a common solution to these issues. It is now a well documented story that Transport Minister has been criss-crossing the breadth and width of South Africa cajoling and pleading with taxi operators through their associations and other structures. Beside demonstrating beyond any doubts his historical understanding and love for the sector, Mbalula has publicly stated his and government’s wish and determination to see the industry enjoy all the state benefits that other modes of transport such as buses and loss- making airlines like SAA and Mango have been enjoying. After all, research has shown that majority of working class South Africans use taxis daily to and from work.
If the Taxi Indaba does goes ahead this coming month of October, a number of factors would have first to be looked at, primarily by the Minister and his team of experts and advisors. This, as Mbalula leads his team on behalf of government to convince taxi leaders to agree to a set of conditions under which the taxi industry could operate for it to be fully professionalized and corporatized. How this would be achieved would depend solely on what the experts and advisors from the two role players bring to their negotiation tables. But for all that all that these efforts are worth, as one taxi leader put it, “Minister Mbalula stands on the verge of changing the face of the taxi industry for the good of everyone or just undoing all the efforts he had put in trying to unite the sector.”
The minibus taxi industry has for years operated separately as Santaco and NTA, respectively. Given the unpredictably and polarizing political climate at the moment, any efforts at trying to be blind to that reality by government may come back to backfire spectacularly. But if efforts to unite the industry would also realistically demonstrate how and to what an extent all would benefit, then surely there would be no need to panic. Clearly written and well researched documents by government showing how it plans to regulate and professionalize the taxi sector would be most welcome by the industry and stakeholders alike. Because any failure to do that would be tantamount to an attempt to stage a coup and steal the sector from those who swear by it. Any attempt at sidelining one taxi grouping from another would also as well be like dividing the sector. It is hoped that when October Transport Month and safety campaign begins, all stakeholders would by then have been made aware of what their roles during the Taxi Indaba would be. It is critically prudence for robust and honest debates to win the day as all role players enter the crucial period that would determine the future of the taxi industry.