President Cyril Ramaphosa this week set to focus transport industry including taxi, in every part of the country, millions of our citizens use taxis, buses or trains getting to work, go to school, transport goods or go to centres where they can shop, visit clinics or get social support.
According to 2015 figures, around two-thirds of households who use public transport travel by minibus taxi. Quarter travel by bus and 10 percent by train.
In a country where the vast majority do not have access to private cars, the provision of efficient, reliable, safe and affordable public transport is critical to the people’s everyday lives.
“Unfortunately, public transport continues to be plagued by challenges; some are the legacy of apartheid development, but many are contemporary and persistent,” said President Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said two events last week drew into sharp focus the reality that for far too many citizens, using public transport is dangerous and can even be deadly.
Last Wednesday, 16 people were killed when a minibus taxi collided with a truck between Melmoth and Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal.
A day later, commuters had to flee for their lives on a busy highway in Johannesburg when a passenger in a minibus taxi opened fire on the driver, killing him and causing the vehicle to lose control.
Fortunately, none of the other passengers was injured.
“Many of our people’s experiences with public transport are not positive. Those reliant on trains have to contend with daily delays, disruptions and prolonged closures of essential lines.
“Furthermore, rail infrastructure in most cities only covers older parts of cities and has not kept up with new city development,” said Ramaphosa.
Unroadworthy vehicles, unsafe driving, speeding, overloading and other practices are persistent problems in the taxi industry. Many people fall victim to crime on trains, taxis and buses.
With many people living far from places of work, transport is very expensive for low-income households. A report by Statistics South Africa found that more than two-thirds of households with the lowest income spend more than 20% of their monthly household income on public transport.
The survey found that transportation by taxis to be the most expensive mode of public transport, followed by trains and buses.
Since taxis are the primary means of public transit for people across all provinces, we are giving urgent attention to the problems in the industry.
This week, we are convening the National Taxi Lekgotla to chart the course towards a more efficient sector. This platform brings together government, civil society and industry stakeholders and comes on the back of provincial makgotla that have taken place in most provinces.
The lekgotla will seek common ground on existing business models, safety and compliance, broader economic empowerment of operators and the issue of subsidies for taxis.
It will also look at how to end the conflict and violence that continues to plague the industry because of competition on routes.
Most importantly, it must emerge with a blueprint for a formalised industry that plays a meaningful role in the mainstream economy and is effectively regulated.
According to Ramaphosa, the taxi industry can and must play an important role in government’s ultimate objective of improving the daily experiences of commuters through the establishment of integrated rapid transport service networks in the metros, cities, towns and rural districts.