Santaco is in high gear

2011-08-20 10:52

Bongani Msimang, the man entrusted with steering the minibus taxi industry to greater heights, is not fazed by the daunting journey ahead.

The challenges for the new chief executive of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) include repositioning the industry and launching a new airline.

A trial run of Santaco Airlines will take place on September 16.

“Santaco Airlines will target people who’ve never flown before,” Msimang says.

He made it to the position of Santaco chief executive, he says, because he has never owned a taxi and, as such, is able to remain impartial during robust debates.

“I was brought into the organisation because of my administrative background. Hopefully, an objective eye will help to transform the organisation,” he says.

Msimang’s main mandate is to unlock the industry’s potential and help minibus taxi operators diversify. He does not own a taxi because the business is “complex to operate”.

“Actually, now I’m dreaming of owning taxis. When you’re outside of the business, the industry seems like a difficult terrain to operate in,” he says.

“But after speaking with some operators, I realised it wasn’t as complicated as I’d thought. I can also run taxis.”

Born in Zola, Soweto, 43 years ago, Msimang studied for a Senior Teaching Certificate at Eastern Cape’s Bethel College.
While teaching at Lavela Primary School in Zola, he studied part time and completed a BCom (Law) degree.

He then did a six-month course in water and sanitation in England. On his return, he put his skills into practice at a company that provided basic water and sanitation in rural areas.

He was later hired as a programme manager at Mvula Trust, where he provided strategic advice to the water affairs department.

“I was a senior strategic consultant for the department, and the job gave me experience in implementing strategies and aligning the programmes of the department with the plans,” says Msimang.

He then worked as an executive director at Poloka Development.
He is now pursuing a master’s degree in business administration.

Last year, he joined Santaco as chief strategic officer and was promoted to position of chief executive in February.

As chief executive, Msimang will implement Santaco’s “redefine, restructure and reposition 2020” strategy.

“The strategy is the brainchild of Santaco president Jabulani Mthembu and aims to radically transform the taxi industry by 2020,” he says.

“The strategy will focus on empowering taxi operators to set up businesses beyond the industry.

“The opportunities within the taxi industry need to be expanded while services are also enhanced.

“The vision speaks to enterprise development, customer care, policy and legislation, and public transport restructuring.”

This will be achieved by giving the taxi business resources, he says.

“By 2020, we should have an industry that’s fully positioned to exploit opportunities in other sectors,” he says.

“Besides airlines, we also want to explore opportunities in trains and ships.

“We want to have an industry that’s more corporatised and improve customer service.”

The industry also wants to be more organised so it can engage better with the government and influence legislation.

“The industry aims to be proactive in finding solutions and engaging stakeholders,” Msimang says.

“What’s important is that the industry also drives transformation.”

The most challenging aspect of his job is to deal with the negative perception people have about the minibus taxi industry by coming up with projects that show taxi drivers do prioritise safety.

“We want to prioritise the safety of passengers, and an academy for taxi operators, drivers and taxi rank marshals will be launched next month to upskill industry professionals,” he says.

Santaco, which turns 10 next month, is serious about transforming the industry. It recently created the positions of business development officer, operations manager, communications manager, logistics manager, and membership and customer development manager.

“In September, 70 graduates will be brought in to do internships in their field of specialities,” says Msimang.

“Our aim is to expose learners to office management and recruit the cream of the crop when the internship programme comes to an end.”

Santaco is also finalising a loyalty reward programme aimed at giving discounts to taxi commuters.

“We’ll also launch a funeral and medical scheme for taxi industry workers and commuters, and doctors in our network will charge lower rates,” says Msimang.

The married father of a teenage boy and girl plays soccer with his friends in his spare time.

“I also play golf with business associates, but to be honest, it’s not a sport I like,” Msimang says.

He enjoys reading spiritual and business books, listening to gospel and classical music, and singing in and conducting his church choir.

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