I am honoured to address members of TOPICA, the Transport Operators' Pace
Initiators Conglomerated Associations, during this national conference. I
have always looked upon the taxi industry with pride, for to me this is a
model of successful black economic self-empowerment. It is a truly African
industry, black-owned and black-operated. It serves as a fundamental pillar
of our public transport system in South Africa, and plays a significant role
in our country's economy. I value the good relations that my Party and I
have always maintained with TOPICA.
In a country like ours, where there is still widespread poverty, and people
often still live far from their place of schooling or work, taxis provide an
essential service. They are more readily available than other forms of
public transport, and more affordable. Yet the taxi industry remains
unsubsidised by Government. Every petrol price hike affects the industry, as
do plans for rapid transit bus systems and toll roads. It is therefore
essential that taxi owners organise and formalise their industry, so that
their voice will carry greater weight in negotiations and policy discussions
Regrettably, it is the fragmented nature of this industry which has caused
it the most harm, allowing competition to spill over into conflict, and even
violent conflict. Taxi wars have claimed lives and have cost the industry
dearly in its relationship with both commuters and Government. I am a man of
peace. For more than six decades I have championed non-violence and
negotiations as a means to end conflict. I have therefore spoken in many
fora and on many occasions about the need to end violent conflict.
There is nothing wrong with competitiveness. Competition drives an economy
and offers consumers better value, and more options. But economic
competition cannot become a question of who has more assassins and who can
intimidate people into boycotting a competitor. I know that the majority of
taxi owners and taxi operators are in agreement that violence has no place
in the taxi industry.
I know that, like me, you are people of peace, who seek only to make a
livelihood and provide a service. Thus the call to end violence must come
from within the industry itself. It cannot be tolerated.
I am, of course, aware that the taxi industry has been exposed to violence
from outside as well. In the four years preceding our first democratic
elections, 20 000 lives were lost in the ANC's People's War which was waged
against other components of the liberation movement. Part of the People's
War strategy was to breed terror within communities, which would produce an
urgent demand for transition to ANC rule as quickly as possible. To create
fear, random attacks were carried out on taxis, trains and township streets.
Particularly here in KwaZulu Natal and on the Reef, ordinary people were
arbitrarily targeted by gunmen as they waiting for and travelled in taxis.
Taxis carrying mourners to funerals were targeted, as were public meeting
places of commuters.
Certain attacks are etched in our memories. We cannot forget Sunday the 1st
of August 1993, when a taxi arriving in Tembisa from Transkei was stopped by
armed gunmen, who shot dead 12 passengers and then set the taxi alight. That
was a weekend of chaos which left 90 people dead. One journalist reported a
militant youth explaining, "We are looking for the Zulus". We also remember
how, just two days before the elections, a100kg bomb was detonated at a taxi
rank in Germiston, resulting in total devastation. Commuters were targeted
wherever they gathered.
But the taxi industry survived, for it provided a service that all our
people needed and it offered a means of economic self-empowerment when very
few opportunities existed for black South Africans. To own one's own
business during the Apartheid era, and a thriving business at that, was no
small feat. It brought dignity to many households and fed many families.
I recall that, before taxis, a trip from my home in Mahlabathini to Durban
would take two whole days. State-owned buses ran a service, but it was not
fast, it was not cheap, and it seldom took you right where you needed to be.
Taxis, on the other hand, brought wonderful new benefits. They ran
late-night services. They travelled to out-of-the-way places, making
convenient stops on long distances. They could pick up commuters from their
homes, and drop them back at their homes. One could escape the long queues
at bus and train stations. But most important of all, they charged
Thus taxis enabled people to connect with one another, even when they lived
far apart. They reunited families, took children to school, made healthcare
accessible, enabled people to take jobs far from home, allowed people to
shop for bulk products at wholesale stores, and supported political
mobilisation by bringing people together for meetings and protests. Today,
taxis still serve all these purposes. They provide an indispensable service
to the majority of South Africans who rely on public transport for a myriad
About 70% of South African commuters use taxis rather than any other form of
public transport. There are an estimated 130 000 minibus taxis operating on
our roads. With an annual turnover in excess of R17 billion, the taxi
industry plays a strategic role in the economy. I believe this industry will
have a fundamental impact on the development of an integrated transport
system, as well as economic growth and sustainable development in the
twenty-first century. I also believe that the taxi industry has a strategic
role to play in fighting poverty. The ubiquitous taxi ranks throughout South
Africa are lifelines of commerce and communication.
It is thus a tribute to taxi operators that you have managed to keep taxi
fares reasonable enough to avoid out-pricing taxis from the public transport
market. I realise that the exorbitant cost of fuel, which continues to
climb, has a serious impact on the bottom line of your industry. We are all
feeling the pinch of rising prices, but for some an increase of a Rand or
two in taxi fares means the difference between staying afloat financially
and sinking below the breadline.
We recall with great sadness the commuter protests that took place in July
this year in Folweni, South of Durban, when taxi fares were expected to
increase. Commuters were distressed, because within many households there
are generally six or seven people who use taxis on a daily basis, and the
cumulative increase would be too much for a single household to carry.
Tragically, during that protest, fourteen year old Mxolisi Buthelezi was
shot and killed in crossfire between protesters and police.
This phenomenon of violent protest has gripped South Africa anew. It is a
legacy of our liberation struggle which saw the ANC's mission-in-exile
sending a call into South Africa to create chaos and make our country
ungovernable. Thus a generation was forged that accepted violence as a tool
of political expression and social protest. That culture never left South
Africa. It shrank into the background when we achieved democracy and our
people lived buoyed on hope and high expectations. But eighteen years later,
with many of those expectations unmet, and many challenges confronting us,
the culture of violent protest is returning to the foreground.
We see this with the current transport workers' strikes that have claimed
lives and livelihoods in the most brutal ways. Trucks have been burned and
truck drivers killed, while negotiations have been marred by continually
shifted goalposts, accusations and counter-accusations. Before the transport
workers' strikes, we saw mineworkers striking, sparked by the Marikana Mine
strike which ended in a massacre that rocked our country to the core. Before
that, it was service delivery protests, in which lives were lost and
This culture of violence needs to be addressed within our society.
Let me speak for a moment about another tragedy which affects the taxi
industry significantly, and that is road accidents. I think corruption has
contributed to so many taxi accidents. It was quite a scandal when our
previous Speaker in the National Parliament had a licence which she
"bought." One thought if this kind of rot happens at that high level of the
public life, how many taxi owners innocently hire people with licences of
this kind which are the product of corruption because they were "bought" I
do not know how this problem can be solved for I think it has a great
contribution to so many taxi accidents we have today. It is a serious
matter which needs our attention as too many lives are lost as a result of
bad driving by people who are not really qualified to drive but who have
There are mixed opinions about the percentage of road accident casualties
involving taxis as compared to the total number of road casualties. But it
is self-evident that the potential for tragedy is higher when it comes to
taxis, simply because more lives are involved. The IFP has been deeply
affected by road accidents in which we lost IFP supporters travelling to
attend conferences and meetings. We know the depth of pain to many families
and friends when a taxi overturns or collides.
I am therefore grateful to TOPICA for placing the safety of commuters high
on the agenda. Safety is certainly paramount. For this reason, my Party
welcomed the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme when it was first developed, as
it promised to remove un-roadworthy vehicles from our roads and improve the
safety features of operating taxis. The Programme suffered several setbacks,
not least the scandal of remodelled panel vans being punted as New Taxi
Vehicles. But the Programme has been an indicator that Government recognises
the need for great formalisation of and interaction with the taxi industry.
It is my hope that Government will also come to recognise the need to
introduce a subsidy for a single monthly ticket that can be used on all
public transport from trains to buses to taxis. The taxi industry must
become an integrated part of Mass Rapid Public Transit networks which are
slowly, but surely, gaining currency in the development of integrated
transport strategies in the metropolitan areas. As is well-known, this
system is being used in many developed and developing countries.
Simply put, in our case, taxi services should be integrated with other
transport providers like busses and trains so that commuters, particularly
in the townships, can walk to the taxi rank and then continue their journey
to work by bus or train. This would help alleviate the fuel crisis, create
smoother traffic flow, and reduce our nation's carbon footprint. Students,
jobseekers and old age pensioners should also be able to travel free of
charge during off-peak hours on local transport, just like in the UK and
Europe which has subsidised local transport.
Just now the media is seized with the issue of the bail out that the
Government has given to the South African Airways. As you know I was a
Member of Cabinet for 10 years. What is happening now is not exceptional; I
cannot keep count of bail outs that the South African Airways sought from
the Cabinet when I was a Minister. One then wonders why there should be
problems about subsidising the taxi industry.
There are many things to consider and discuss during this national
conference, and I am pleased to wish you well in your deliberations. The IFP
takes pride in South Africa's taxi industry and the role it plays in our
country's economy. We thank you for providing a crucial service to so many
South Africans, and for enabling us to live our day to day lives with
broader horizons and greater opportunities. The value of our people being
able to move about with ease should never be underestimated.
I thank you.