From taxi bosses to bus owners

The taxi industry will own and ­manage a proposed bus-operating

company that will run the City of ­Johannesburg’s controversial Bus Rapid

Transit ­System’s (BRT) for at least 12 years.


This appears to be the key factor that led to the 11th hour

compromise to solve the long-standing and often ­deadly impasse between the

industry and the government days before the 2010 Soccer World Cup kicked off on

Friday.


The agreement – which is part of ­ongoing negotiations to reach a

final settlement – was signed by ­Johannesburg City Mayor Amos ­Masondo, Top Six

Taxi Association chairperson Sicelo Mabaso and BRT steering committee

chairperson Eric Motshwane on Tuesday.


Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele hailed it as a “historic agreement”

that went to the heart of what the ­government was trying to achieve with its

integrated rapid transport network in towns and cities.


The deal, which will see nearly half of the 1?200 taxis operating

­between Johannesburg and Soweto ­replaced by 143 Rea Vaya buses, has been

embraced by most taxi owners.


The deal is a culmination of nine months of heated negotiations

­between an industry worried about loss of income and a government ­determined

to formalise the sector and give commuters transport choice.


Taxi bosses said that they were ­confident that the milestone

­agreement, rejected by the majority of affected taxi drivers and queue

­marshals, would spell the end of ­BRT-related taxi violence that has ­already

claimed at least two lives and led to about a dozen people being ­injured during

drive-by shootings by gunmen opposed to BRT.


An excited Motshwane said: “The ­offer entails the fact that you

will no more have to operate taxis and you will be paid the rate per kilometre

that has been agreed upon for 12 years, without any taxi-related stress such as

an ­accident, a breakdown or theft of ­taxis.”


He added that they would outsource the management functions of the

bus operating company.


Mabaso said it was a coincidence that the deal had been struck just

­before the 2010 kick-off.


“That on its own is history and we are the catalysts to get into

this kind of business and obviously we won’t be last,” he said.


He added he did not know whether the deal would end BRT-related

­violence because he was unaware of what had triggered the shootings in the

first place.


While Motshwane maintained those opposed to BRT had the right to

voice their concerns, he said the
“­transformation of public transport is

inevitable”.


“We must be able to compete with international standards and can’t

be held back by warlords.”


City’s portfolio head of transport, Rehana Moosajee, confirmed that

the taxi industry would own and operate the BRT operating company but ­insisted

“that was always the ­intention”.


She said a 2006 study done by the city provided for ownership of

the ­bus-operating company by the taxi ­industry.


But Moosajee said that the city would ­ensure the taxi industry had

an acceptable plan and the necessary ­capacity.

 
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