LETTER | Dear Mr President - Charter and Tourism bus industry's desperate cry to Ramaphosa

Image: PCPA
Image: PCPA

• The Private Charter Passenger Association has tried for more than 10 months to engage with government about the dire crisis of the Charter and Tourism bus industry.

• PCPA chair Fiona Brooke-Leggatt shares the association's most recent attempt to interact or get some response from government after Greyhound has announced its close of business.

• They have paid R23-million in prepaid licence fees and were unable to operate their vehicles, and now are required to pay another R23 million but have no means to do so. 

• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

Wheels24 reader Fiona Brooke-Leggatt shares a letter to the Presidency prior to the lockdown regarding the closure of Greyhound.

The Charter and Tourism industry has been requesting assistance since 26 March regarding the ongoing licence fees they had prepaid for the year March 2020 to March 2021, which are now due again, and which the department of Transport has received an amount of over R23-million from our members alone. They are now requiring a further R23 million in licence fees.

Dear Honourable President Ramaphosa,

The unsubsidised Charter and Tourism Bus industry have not been able to work a day with our Tourism & Charter permits since 26 March 2020 and won't for the foreseeable future, regardless of which level, as domestic tourists do not utilise coaches and busses and nor do Conferences with numbers being so low for events, likewise, school excursions are not happening. 

Despite having prepaid our licence fees which the government received from ourselves as prepayment for the March 2020 to March 2021 year, the Department of Transport has failed to reimburse ourselves or issue an urgent mandate advising that all permit licence holders from the Tourism and Charter sector within the transport industry must be exempt from licence fees, penalties and interest, and are eligible to be given time in lieu for the pre-period paid on the 26 March 2020, and again in September (six months later). Still, the licencing department has been charging ourselves penalties and interest on licences we have already paid for non-use throughout the country, despite ourselves not being eligible to utilise our permits on the road for commercial use to generate and income.

private charter industry
Image: Mr De Beer / YouTube

We are in a position that without having earned a cent in ten months and not knowing when we will work in the foreseeable future, we cannot pay our necessary monthly expenses, never mind our licence fees. The private industry is about to collapse with financial institutions not assisting with loans or the like with no available cash flow or income statement that can be provided and what makes things so problematic is that our fixed costs for vehicles, insurance and the licencing remain the same regardless if we are operating or not and in-fact we would have been better off if our vehicles had been written off or burned because then we would have been paid out for the prepaid licence fees that we paid the provincial licencing department, and wouldn't be due penalties and interest.  

Are you a member of the Private Charter Passenger Association, and required to pay prepaid licences again? How has your business been impacted? Please email us here and we'll share your story.

Your Minister of Transport, Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile on Twitter) has failed to fix anything, with regards to granting ourselves a meeting or following to carry out what the Deputy General of Transport advised wouldn't be a problem with regards to extending our licence expiry dates on all our Tourism and Charter Permit licences that we had prepaid a year in advance, and haven't utilised in time in lieu, however, keeps telling all media and tourism-related bodies that the issue has been resolved. However in the gazetted information that was published it was actually not the licence disks that they have granted an extension on, but the actual Operating Card which helps no operator when you are not operational and doesn't exempt ourselves from the fees or extend our validity of the fees already paid with regards to the licencing fees. 

Despite constant requests for engagement with the Minister and his deputy, the spokesperson of the Department of Transport, "Ms A Payne" has failed to reply to one media request for a statement when asked for comment over the eleven-month struggle, "Ms Payne" either advises she will get back to them but as of yet has failed to reply with a comment to countless media journalism houses, journalists, or any legal documentation or letters.  

we need help,pcpa,private charter industry
Image: YouTube

In short, the Department of Transport and Government countrywide had received R23 million from our PCPA members for the past ten months for absolutely no commercial use of the road for all our Charter and Tourism Permit licence holders that our members pre-paid. Now they are trying to enforce ourselves to pre-pay another R23 million for the 2021/2022 annual licence fee. We have no funds to pay, when in-fact since we pre-paid the fees we have had no use of the vehicles on the road, we require the licences are extended by the time in lieu that we pre-paid to keep ourselves and our businesses alive and save countless jobs!

The Presidency's office, the Department of Transport, and the Department of Tourism countrywide have failed even to reply or engage whatsoever with these "NON-SUBSIDISED BUS, AND COACH OPERATORS" from the PCPA (Private Charter Passenger Association) has refused to engage with us despite all attempts over the past eleven months and have ignored all legal requests for engagement.

As an organisation, Mr President, we ask, "is our government's non-action a deliberate attempt of failing to engage with ourselves a clear sign of wanting the Private Sector to collapse?"

With all those they employ throughout the country and the bias being shown towards offering the taxi industry R2.3-billion despite working throughout the pandemic, and the Minister and his spokesperson being at the taxi industry's beck and call, your actions with failing to engage with the Private Bus Charter industry sector will draw operators and the public to their own conclusions, despite yourself continuously appealing to assist in creating jobs and asking the private sector to assist with rebuilding the economy.

The government's NON-ACTION, and deliberate failure to engage via email, WhatsApp, the press, or via our attorney, of which we have laid out a series of options available to the government to assist us, is the Department of Transport and Tourism being 100% discriminatory towards this private sector of transportation without any response to continual requests for engagement.

]Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula visits PUTCO bus depot to monitor and inspect compliance with measures put in place to protect passengers put in place on PUTCO buses on May 15, 2020 in Tshwane, South Africa.

Our members and their staff have not worked a day in the charter and Tourism industry since 26 March 2020 despite vast monthly costs that we have outlaid to yourselves in licence fees. We are requesting your urgent engagement to save the industry which is on its knees, as failure to do so will cost the country dearly when the International Tourism industry and conference market commences. 

Furthermore, many international countries have realised the seriousness of a failed private coach industry's consequences for the future of Tourism. Therefore, they have assisted their private un-subsidised coach operators, with this licencing initiative of extending the licences in time in lieu against what the pre-paid, so they can operate when the Tourism sector opens. 

Mr President if the Greyhound after thirty-seven years have decided to shut their doors despite them having had income throughout the lockdown with the Inter-city service, imagine what a state of affairs all these private tourism and charter permit holders must be in. 

We were advised in a zoom conference by the Deputy General of Transport that it would not be a problem in approaching all the provincial bodies to just look at the Tourism and Charter permits division of licencing and add the validity of the licence on a pro-rata basis as time in lieu for the time period we had pre-paid and lost from 26 March to-date, with ourselves having pre-paid to 26 March 2021.

Since the zoom meeting, this engagement ceased, and the DG has failed to reply to one form of correspondence since our engagement in August.

This initiative would cost the government nothing to ensure we can operate again when the country re-opens. Still, at the moment we cannot pay the licence fees. The government will more than likely never get the fees if all the bus operators in these two sectors fail financially. Countless drivers, mechanics, and those related to this vast industry will be left destitute monthly as companies continue to close, which will then have a snow-ball effect onto the vehicle manufacturing industry and garages in the country.

All we are requiring is our money that we prepaid in good faith or our licences to be given back in time in lieu for the time we have not been able to operate with our licences that we outlaid to yourselves as a government in good faith to utilise the roads for commercial purposes when the international travel industry opens.

The Private Charter Passenger Association has availed all the following legal documentation they have failed to have had one response from the Presidency, or the Department of Transport and Tourism: 

I look forward to getting a response from yourself and your departments with regards to this matter: 
1. Letter sent to the Presidency in May 2020.
2. Petition documentation overview sent to the Presidency, Minister of Transport and Minister of Tourism
3. Letter to the Director-General of Transport Mr A Moemi
4. Media Statement through Wheels24 from PCPA
5. Legal Letter sent to the Minister of Transport, D.G, Minister of Trade and Industry and the DG of Trade & Industry 25 May.
6. Legal Letter sent to the Minister of Transport and Transport spokesperson on 8 June.
7. Legal Letter sent to the Minister of Tourism sent on 5 July. 
8 & 9: Legal Letters sent on 15 and 19 December.
10: Presentation of PCPA  In the event, Mr President, you would like all the media articles and other letters and documents sent over the past ten months to members of your government throughout the country being sent every month, our organisation will gladly submit all the correspondence. 

Please kindly respond to our members via the email address contact@pcpa.co.za

Also, Mr President, if you need someone to sort out and run an ethical, non-corrupt professional department who knows what is going on within the industry and not just the taxi industry, please feel free to contact me, as I may need a job and would like to make a difference!

Kind regards, 
Fiona Brooke-Leggatt
Private Charter Passenger Association Chairperson

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