Despite numerous calls and requests for information, as provided for in the relevant provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, no outcome or reason was received from the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison regarding the application for registration.
DESPITE winning a court order against the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, the Douglas Local and Long Distance Taxi Association is still not registered and is not able to operate legally.
Northern Cape High Court acting Judge Chwaro, in his judgment that was handed down on December 4, stated that the department’s refusal to provide access to and copies of the requested documents relating to the decision regarding the organisation’s application to register as a taxi association, or provide reasons therefore, was unlawful.
He ordered the MEC and the HOD for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison to furnish the Douglas Taxi Association with the reason for its decision within 15 days after judgment was handed down.
The association became an affiliate of the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) in October 2018 and obtained support from the Siyancuma Local Municipality to establish itself and register with the provincial regulatory authority as a taxi association.
In September 2018, the taxi association submitted its registration documents along with payment of R300 to the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison.
The application was refused by the provincial regulatory entity – the provincial Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, whereupon an attempt was made to submit the application for registration in Bloemfontein.
The application was referred back to the Northern Cape and was eventually accepted by the respondents on October 9, 2018.
Despite numerous calls and requests for information as provided for in the relevant provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, no outcome or reason was received regarding the application for registration.
In an answering affidavit, the HOD of the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Moeketsi Piet Dichaba, questioned why the taxi association had failed to exhaust all internal remedies before resorting to court action.
The department acknowledged receipt of the application for registration documents and indicated that the process was no longer regulated in terms of the new National Land Transport Transition Act.
“The old act was repealed and the applicant is at liberty to approach the court against the minister to regulate the registration or challenge the current act that is currently silent on the issue.”
Judge Chwaro stated that the taxi association was “further frustrated” by the department when it was instructed to exhaust internal remedies to obtain access to information relating to its application for registration as a taxi association.
“This conduct of the respondents cannot be condoned as it is contrary to the purport of section 195 of the Constitution which advocates for a transparent, responsive and accountable public service.”
He was satisfied that the taxi association had complied with all internal procedural steps when it lodged the court application.
“On the merits, it is without any doubt that the respondents have failed to provide access to information as requested by the applicant.
“One of the basic values and principles governing public administration is transparency. Access to information is crucial to the right to freedom of expression which includes freedom of the press and other media and freedom to receive or impart information or ideas “
Judge Chwaro believed that the department that was entrusted to regulate public transport in the Province had “literally abandoned the applicant and provided no assistance regarding the actual legal position pertaining to registration of taxi associations and related matters”.
“The officer failed to react to the request for access to information either to indicate
whether the same was refused or not.
“The fact that there are no legislative provisions dealing with the registration of taxi associations at the moment does not assist the department because they were supposed to have convened the provincial regulatory authority, or whichever body or functionary that is so empowered, to take a decision to that effect and communicate it to the taxi association.
“This is the information that the taxi association seeks from the respondents, which has not been forthcoming. This is not an exemplary conduct expected from the provincial state department and its officials.”
Judge Chwaro ordered the MEC and HOD, as well as the provincial regulatory entity, to “promptly and fully comply” with their obligations and to pay the legal costs jointly and severally on an attorney and client scale.
The spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison Rennie Andrias, said on Tuesday that the department had studied the court order.
“We have been in consultation with the provincial regulatory entity to facilitate compliance with the court order, thus giving reasons as per the request for access to information.
“The department has not communicated the reasons to the applicant yet. Therefore it will not be correct for the department to communicate the reasons to the media.”
He added that the department did not receive the bill of costs that had to be adjudicated before the taxing master in order for the legal costs to be paid.
Andrias explained that the department recognised the legislative provisions in respect of the registration of taxi associations.
“They are established in terms of the repealed National Land Transport Transition Act. Section 6 of the National Land Transport Act, No 5 of 2009 stipulates that provinces should establish and maintain a national information system.
“The current legislation is silent on the establishment and recognition of new taxi associations.”
He stated that the provincial regulatory entity was the regulatory body responsible for adjudicating the registration of taxi associations.
“However, due to the legislative lacuna no decision can be made by the entity in that regard, until the act is amended to address that,” said Andrias.