The National Taxi Alliance has pulled out of the national Taxi Lekgotla convened by government and by extension by the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula in what is believe to be a watershed moment in the minibus taxi industry in South Africa.
On Friday, 23 October the organization held a press conference for the media where its President, Francis Masitse, articulated the stance they have taken since the decision was taken. The NTA has blamed Mbalula for negotiating in bad faith with them while he knew all along that his aim was to sideline them at the end of the day, preferring instead to have the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) as the only participant in the event.
“It is indeed bad faith for Minister Mbalula and his department to expect us to participate in the Lekgotla discourse as praise singers of his preferred organization Santaco with no participatory independence and identity,” said Masitse.
In boycotting the event that took place at the end of October, the NTA said it could not participate in an event whose outcome had been predetermined and would therefore be compromising its credibility by participating in such a forum. He said Mbalula has sadly triggered the 2001 ‘failed unification” element as one of the reasons for not engaging faithfully with the NTA.
“It must be noted that the failure of the 2001 ‘unification 2001’ project of the taxi industry emanated precisely from the partisanship bias towards Sataco ( the then South African Taxi Council) by the then MECs and the national Ministry of Transport,” said Masitse.
The NTA is one of the country’s main role players in the shaping of the industry and has been engaging with minister Mbalula even before the breakout of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic on how the sector, considered one if the country’s major flagship of the stories of government’s black economic empowerment (BEE) in decades, could be formalized and be professionalized.
Long before the body announced its withdrawal cracked had begun to show between Mbalula’s office and the leadership of the NTA after some leadership accused Alec Moemi, the director-general in Mbalula’s office of unprofessionally and being disrespectful towards them after he allegedly likened some of the to RENAMO rebels, a Mozambican renegade rebel movement that has been engaging in force battled with government forces in that country over control of some parts of the county dating back to pre-independent times. Mbalula apologized on behalf of Moremi and the bad blood between the two parties seemed to have died down.
However, when government produced its discussion document for public comment leading up to the Lekgotla where among other things it called for the creation of a single taxi council that would be overseeing all taxi-related issues, including how it could be formally professionalized to how it could run its business supply chain. Also suggested on the document was the phasing out of dual roles of taxi industry leadership people like chairpersons and their other executive members, suggesting that these leaders should cease to hold many positions in different structures as it believed that they end up becoming conflicted and becoming sources of taxi-related violence that has become a a sad and permanent feature of the industry. In all if these the NTA has maintained that Mbalula has betrayed them but would always keep an open door policy for engagements.
“We don’t regret our decision to refuse to be co-opted, because our independence has enabled us to deliver apex projects that directly benefitted taxi operators and catapulted and entrenched them in the middle class economic status,” concluded Masitsa.
We support government’s commitment to completing the NTTT vision: Molelekwa
The South Aftican National Taxi Council (Santaco ) took part in the recent Taxi Lekgotla because it believed that it was prudent on government to finally fulfill the mandate of the National Taxi Task Team (NTTT). Between 1994-1995 government and the taxi industry embarked on a long and protracted engagement on the future of the taxi industry sector, culminating on the 1996 NTTT – a government guiding document put before cabinet as the blue print on how to transform and empower the sector.
Thabisho Molelekwa, in a rare telephonic interview openly welcomed government bold and long overdue move to put the taxi industry on top of its priorities. He added that in saying that government wanted to create a council running the affairs of the taxi industry in the country, it should be supported in such a move because it heralded a new era for the sector.
“Government said they want to see such a body oversee the affairs of the industry and, from where we stand such a body already exists,” said Molelekwa.
“Minister Mbalula has been very consistent when he says he doesn’t want to undo what the NTTT has done,” said Molelekwa.
According to Molelekwa regulation has been done and what is left is for what government through the minister wants to do and which is what the NTTT stands for.
He firmly disagrees with the view that contends that through the Taxi Lekgotla government intended to collapse both the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) and the South African National Taxi Alliance (Santaco) in favour of the intended taxi council.
“So it would be very unnecessary and to expect government to collapse the NTA and Santaco. You see, Santaco is the product of the NTTT and therefore the leadership of Santaco would not play a role in collapsing itself,” said Molelekwa.
The Federation for Long and Local Distance Taxi Operators (FELLDTA) is battling to keep two rival taxi associations at pea as they now fight over a rural routes in the Giyani Municipality in Mopani District, Limpopo.
The two associations – NDIMAHLO, which stands for the three villages of Ndindani, Mahlathi and Hlomela are at loggerheads with the Tiyimeleni Taxi Association from the nearby Gawula village led by former teacher Zava Nkuna.
The four villages are separated by just between five and ten kilometers apart form each other but cannot work and operate on the same route.
The root cause of the friction was caused when concerned community members from the Ndindani Mahlathi Hlomela raised concern about the ill-treatment they received from drivers from Tiyimeleni Taxi Association who allegedly dropped passengers from Ndindani and Mahlathi on the road and refused to get into their villages and instead preferred to go to Hlomela. It is in this background that the NDIMAHLO Association was formed. Now the Tiyimeleni taxi association is reportedly blocking all routes to prevent taxis from NDIMAHLO to operate. By Thursday, 22 October a taxi reportedly belonging to one of the associations was burned during the skirmish.
“The issue of these associations is now under police but we hope that these people will find it food to work together. From what we know NDIMAHLO was born out of frustration from members of these communities who needed an alternative transport system to operate in their area,” said Solly Zitha, FELLDTA deputy chairperson.
Meanwhile, peace has retuned to taxis operating in the Muyexe Mhlava Willem villages after following a protest over fees from Mhlava Willem to Giyani that resulted in some residents boycotting taxis in the area. They were unhappy about paying R23 to Giyani and now the fee has been decreased to R22.