The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) has stayed true to its word and will not be part of the national taxi lekgotla as it commences today.
The second-largest taxi association believes it has been treated with “disdain and humiliation, which does not sit well with us”.
This was according to association spokesperson Theo Malele, who on Thursday morning told City Press that his association was displeased with “the manner in which [Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula] handled the launch of the lekgotla discourse, at which the NTA was never given speaking rights”.
On August 20, Mbalula launched the taxi lekgotla public discourse platform, which lay the foundation for engagement by stakeholders, including businesses and trade unions, on the future of the taxi industry.
“At the lekgotla launch, he [Mbalula] had invited businesses and trade unions, where all of them had speaking rights. We were the only ones who did not have those speaking rights,” Malele told City Press.
“We subsequently got legal advice from our lawyers, who wrote to the minister to address that and the release of the Covid-19 relief fund.”
According to Malele, Mbalula engaged with the association during a virtual meeting on Wednesday night and “expressed his wish that the NTA needs to be part and parcel of the lekgotla discourse and he is actually going to be working tirelessly even beyond the lekgotla to ensure that the NTA’s input is part of the proceedings of the lekgotla, even beyond the lekgotla”.
“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 emphasised the need and desire for the NTA to be treated as an independent taxi body.
“We are not against the transformation, professionalisation and modernisation of the industry. We are for change, but we want to be respected as an independent body.
“The minister said yesterday that there was no way that anything would be concluded without the NTA, hence he has made it clear to us that he will be working with us and taking into consideration our input, even beyond the lekgotla, so that all future plans are inclusive of the NTA.”
Mbalula’s spokesperson Ayanda-Allie Paine told City Press that: “The minister will be engaging NTA directly and not through the media. Suffice to say, these were the utterances at the Free State provincial lekgotla.”
This comes at the back of the Free State provincial lekgotla which took place in Parys on Monday, where Mbalula addressed attendees.
“We must talk facing each other. This lekgotla is not an accident. It was hampered by the pandemic and now we are continuing,” Mbalula said at the time.
“We must come together, even those who were invited but think this is not important. The disadvantage is that we will take decisions on their behalf and those decisions will be binding.”
“We want NTA and [the SA National Taxi Council] to come to talks about what hinders them.
“Everyone, in terms of this lekgotla, should be accommodated,” Mbalula said.
In his weekly newsletter to South Africans 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,” he said.
“This is necessary if we are to expand manufacturing, increase local production, stimulate small business activity and create more job opportunities.”
The three-day lekgotla is being held in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.