Source: Department of Transport
Title: SA: Ndebele: Speech by the Minister of Transport at a meeting with taxi industry bosses
Programme Director and Director-General of the Department of Transport: Ms. Mpumi Mpofu;
Deputy Minister of Transport: Mr. Jeremy Cronin;
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport: Mrs. Ruth Bhengu;
A special welcome to newly appointed MECs of Transport in the various provinces;
Mayors and Councillors;
President of SANTACO: Mr. Mthembu;
Leadership and Representatives of the Taxi Industry;
Good morning and welcome to all of you. Our presence here today is a clear indication of our commitment and determination to develop a sustainable, effective and efficient public transport system in South Africa.
His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, during the State of the Nation Address delivered last Wednesday (3 June 2009), said and I quote:
"In April this year, I gave an undertaking to the taxi industry leadership to defer negotiations relating to the operation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system until after the elections. We undertook to allow more time to deal properly with the concerns of the industry. On the 11th of June the Minister of Transport will resume discussions with the industry. The meeting will kick-start a series of engagements with the stakeholders affected by the BRT system. We are confident that unresolved issues will be dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties. This will include the important issue of how all stakeholders will benefit from the initiative." Unquote.
That's the primary reason why we are here today, to engage with the taxi industry.
As newly appointed Minister of Transport, the good thing is that I am here today without any bias or assumptions. I have been fully briefed on the previous meetings you had with the President of the ANC, and now the President of the Republic of South Africa, as well as with my predecessor, Mr. Jeff Radebe. I also understand that whilst you had good engagements, they may have been rushed and were, therefore, inadequate in dealing with the complex issues relating to the taxi industry.
There are several outstanding issues which we must deal with moving forward. My commitment to all of you is that, as President Zuma mandated me, today is the beginning of the continuation of the process.
I start by asking the question: Where are Blacks, and particularly Africans, located in the mainstream economy of our country? In my engagement with your industry, I have never understood why the taxi industry, which is Black-owned, controlled and run, still remains at the margins in economic terms. I've recently heard the correct articulations from the taxi leadership that the "T" in SANTACO does not stand for "Taxi", but rather stands for "Transport."
I am sure that this would certainly be moving in the right direction as this will ensure that the taxi industry becomes part of the mainstream of our economy. Our common agenda is, indeed, to ensure the empowerment of our people. The BRT and other initiatives in the taxi industry, including the provision of public transport as opposed to our current system of commuter transport, which means up to 24-hour operations, can offer a significant entry point for the current taxi industry to become one of the most powerful players in our economy.
In this process, we will also address other burning issues you have raised as your concerns, which include:
An economic empowerment plan for the industry;
Licensing and regulatory problems; and
Training and capacity building.
You should prepare to play a more meaningful role in the future. The taxi industry has more than 64% of our commuting services in South Africa. It is the biggest black-owned industry. It is available in each and every town.
I have been briefed that the previous administration through its Cabinet, in February this year, approved a number of interventions which assist in dealing with the problems you had raised including:
● An inflation-linked increase to the scrapping allowance;
● A turn-around strategy for the Operating Licensing Boards to
● The taxi recapitalisation programme policy guideline;
● A taxi regulatory framework which will be circulated for thorough discussion.
● Further discussions are being finalized this year in July with respect to the taxi subsidy mechanism.
You went to the elections and voted, and you, collectively, gave the African National Congress an overwhelmingly majority and, therefore, mandate to deal with matters of greatest concern to you. You have elected a government which is willing to engage with you in a spirit of partnership - a government which is committed to the realization of your dreams and aspirations.
We, therefore, intend to constitute a National Joint Working Group on Public Transport to deal with issues in the taxi industry, over the next 12 months. Task team members from Government will be provided to you by next week. You must also now decide on your representation on the Task Team. How do we broaden the participation of the taxi industry? We should have the Task Team in place during this month, hold meetings in July and finalise our initial discussions by mid-August. I think we will all agree, with respect to BRT and other public transport interventions, that the question that faces us is not whether this should be done or not, but more of how we do it, in partnership between all stakeholders, for the benefit of the South African nation.
Clearly, President Zuma has given us in the Ministry of Transport a mandate, but, together, we need to decide a modus operandi. This national Joint Working Group on Public Transport must drive this process on our behalf, fulfilling the mandate and ensuring the implementation of a system that places you at the centre.
In the selection of representatives to the Working Group, we need competent people who are able to take decisions. We must ensure that they report back so that we cannot denounce them. These representatives must be credible, able to consult and take decisions. We cannot deviate from seizing this great opportunity that this South African government, which you voted for on 22 April, is presenting you with.
Do not disappoint our future generations by not participating in the new public transport arrangement that will see the greatest empowerment of the taxi industry. Therefore, you must, as a matter of urgency consult amongst each other, formalize and confirm your representation on the National Joint Working Group on Public Transport.
At a local level, we cannot over-emphasize the priority we must place on the affected, and indirectly affected, because it is they who hold the licences. We, as government, cannot dictate how you constitute yourselves into the respective teams, but this process must be transparent, and clear, so that we minimize conflict.
During my previous tenure as MEC for Transport, in KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 to 2004, we piloted a number of projects aimed at achieving empowerment objectives for the taxi industry, with mixed results. Some of them succeeded and others failed. We learnt many lessons, preparing us for the challenges ahead.
Some of the lessons we learnt are that you need an environment based on mutual trust and respect. You cannot negotiate in an environment of threats and confrontation. You cannot achieve anything in an environment of division.
Therefore, of paramount importance, we need to start a structured process of meaningful dialogue. We also need to start negotiations with stakeholders in the first four cities that are engaged in BRT implementation, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, Cape Town and Tshwane. The issues for negotiations should include the ownership structure for existing taxi operators and workers, the institutional arrangements for value-chain benefits and Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment in the various areas that offer business opportunities, and form part of the operations of the system. This will include all rapid public transport networks and development of associated infrastructure, such as inter-modal facilities and stations.
We must take full advantage of business opportunities in public transport associated industries such as manufacturing, maintenance, supply of parts, as indicated in our BBBEE charter. Together, we must broaden your participation beyond public transport, including buses and rail, to areas of freight and logistics, linkage to aviation services and in achieving the reduction of the carnage on our roads. We will achieve this through the establishment of various working groups as part of the national Joint Working Group on Public Transport.
We have to approach these negotiations in a structured fashion. In order to achieve the desired outcomes, in the shortest possible time, we must agree on an agenda, upfront, and avoid having open mandates. Give the nature of these negotiations, we need to separate negotiations on the local BRT operational issues from other national transport issues.
Let us look at the BRT system as an upgrade of your services, rather than a substitute. Let us see it as an opportunity to grow a new revenue stream. It is important to note that the BRT system constitutes a small portion of the national public transportation system. The extent of the planned BRT is less than 170 kilometres in the four cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, which is proposed to be developed by 2010. A further 287 kiometres is proposed to be developed by 2014, adding the cities of Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City and Durban. A further approximately 1 000 kilometres is proposed to be developed by 2025, adding the cities of Mangaung, Rustenburg and Polokwane. This amounts to a total of approximately 1 400 kilometres by 2025. This is only but a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of public transport operated routes in South Africa.
As we begin this process, our focus should be on public transport in the context of the integrated rapid public transport networks that we intend to establish including buses, taxis and rail across the landscape of our country.
I can confirm that there is no plan, now or in the future, to have BRT in small towns such as Umtata and Idutywa. The Department estimates that 5% of the national taxi fleet will be affected in four cities by 2012.
The taxi industry still has an important role to play in our public transport system. Many urban and rural areas will still require the versatility of this industry.
In this regard, we, therefore, also intend to partner with the industry in dealing with the Broader Taxi Transformation issues. We look forward to your active participation in these working groups. I assure you that
I will be expecting concrete proposals from them.
In conclusion, we have put a transport system in place to ensure that the Confederations Cup, which kicks-off on Sunday (14 June 2009), is a huge success. We would like congratulate the taxi industry for your participation in providing transport for this event, like they have in the four cities for all the test matches in the last year.
We have, as government and the nation at large, pledged that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will leave a proud legacy from which our children and our communities will benefit for many years to come. You must be part of this legacy.
Indeed, the road ahead is exciting. But, Together We Can Do More.
I THANK YOU!