The minister of transport Fikile Mbalula has been absent from the public eyes over the past few months and many in the public transport sector wonder where the king of talk could be.
Known among his circle of admirers and foes alike as Mr Razzmatazz, the ever talkative Mbalula had rarely been heard during the lead up to the recent Easter weekend. He only emerged during the release of the Easter holiday road fatality statistics in the full glare of the media.
Although taxi leaders would not say when exactly was the last time they have meaningful engagements with Mbalula on thorny issues regarding the taxi industry’s efforts in getting full government backing in the professionalization of the sector. The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) says they only heard from the minister in November last year through his office when officials accepted a memorandum of grievances. memorandum of grievances was related to the promised Taxi industry Covid-19 Relief Fund which the minister and government had said would be allocated to taxi operators through the South African Revenue Services (SARS). The industry rejected this, arguing that many of its members would not qualify due to stringent conditions attached to it.
Santaco Gauteng secretary Phineas Chabalala says Mbalula has of late distanced himself from the industry but said the minister normally interacts with the national leadership on issues affecting the taxi industry.
“He has not said anything of late about the money for the Covid-19 he has promised us but shall remind him of his promise,” said Chabalala.
He said the last time they saw Mbalula was before Santaco’s launch of the Hlokomela safety campaign last year and also interacted with the minister virtually at last year’s launch of the Taxi Lekgotla.
NTA spokesperson Theo Malele says they are in constant contact with the minister’s office and would keep doing so.
“Our contact and communication with that office is ongoing. We have a good working relationship and will work on maintaining that,” said Malele.