Be thankful for your local taxi

2017-06-13 06:03

WITH the recent protest at Prospecton by members of the taxi industry, one needs a little background.

The public commuter industry evolved from the Valiants to buses to taxis. Trains served a prominent role in the seventies and early eighties but this fizzled out in terms of commuter volumes.

Given South Africa’s poor track record with efficient, cost-effective, subsidised and regulated public transport, and the rapid urbanisation, the buses and trains literally went off the road and tracks.

The taxi industry filled this void rapidly and cheaply, so much so that the industry is a high contributor to state coffers via levies and VAT.

Compare this to trains and see how unfair the situation is towards taxis.

The commuter taxi industry has a long history of being bullied by state officials, is a massive taxpayer (and this is where the real fight comes in) and per kilometre and passenger travelled, has a much safer track record than private motorists.Although, in the event of a collision, the taxi driver is always seen as wrong and a lot of collisions are fatal.

Drivers work under extreme pressure from bosses, commuters and police officials.

Further downtime, either due to mechanical issues or collisions, means no business and no revenue. Vehicle instalments have to be paid, regardless.

Aggravating this is the fact that taxis are charged higher finance rates and higher insurance, and face endless harassment from traffic officials mainly for bribes rather than enforcement.

And enforcement is often selective, discriminatory and done at the worst of times.

This is where the real trouble is and the reason for the protest action.

Maybe VAT on commuter taxis should be zero-rated.

Going forward, it is time that all public transport is treated in the same way.

Subsidies should be based on usage and passenger volumes rather than preferences for state-favoured trains, buses and the BRT (which will be a failure).

Be thankful for your commuter taxi, which by and large moves South Africa safely and cost effectively.


MUHAMMAD OMAR

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