The national taxi lekgotla will just be another futile project if the systematic problems that plague the taxi industry are not addressed.
This is according to Reginald Kgwedi, founder of the Transport and Logistics Students’ Association, who told City Press that “this is in reference to the objectives of taxi lekgotla and pulling out [of the lekgotla] by the National Taxi Association (NTA)”.
Kgwedi’s words come after the NTA – the second-largest taxi association in South Africa – refused to be part of the lekgotla as it commenced today.
‘The problem lies with our government’
“The problem is not the taxi industry. The problem is in our institutions.
“[Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula] must provide support and adequate resources so that they can deal with transport functions. The challenge is that if you are talking abut the taxi industry in terms of its operations on the ground, we find that there is no capacity at municipal and provincial level. There is no way forward,” Kgwedi said.
“The taxi industry itself is formalised, but government is not regulating it. It is regulated in that before I buy a taxi I need to go through a taxi association and there is a process to be followed. So in that instance it is regulated. It is government [that is] falling short. The problem lies with our government,” he said.
Kgwedi said government must do better by the industry.
“Taxis are a public good. That is why it is called public transport and it needs to be regulated by the law. Government must enforce and regulate that space.
“Public transport needs to be empowered ... Government must provide because this is a public good. We are not doing government a favour. A majority of the population depends on the taxi industry. Why can’t taxis have dedicated lanes?
“Without the taxi industry we would not have mobility in South Africa. If we do not address the institutional issues, the problems faced now will persist, with or without the lekgotla.”
Kgwedi lamented the lack of youth representation at the lekgotla.
“Students, who are the future of our country, are not involved in these discussions and that is a problem. I am concerned about that. They should be invited to be a part of the discussions.”
Meanwhile, the absence of the “humiliated” NTA was due to “the manner in which [Mbalula] handled the launch of the lekgotla discourse, at which the NTA was never given speaking rights”, said the association’s spokesperson Theo Malele.
“The NTA’s input should be part of the imagined future of the taxi industry. He has acknowledged that and he is working on how best the NTA should be treated,” Malele told City Press.
In his weekly newsletter on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of the taxi industry to the South African economy.
He said the lekgotla would seek common ground on existing business models, safety and compliance, broader economic empowerment of operators and the issue of subsidies for taxis.
“The national taxi lekgotla is 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,” Ramaphosa said.
“This is necessary if we are to expand manufacturing, increase local production, stimulate small business activity and create more job opportunities.”