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Mbalula calls for input on regulating taxi industry

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“The discussion will seek to address the challenge posed by the prevalence of illegal operators”

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: Phando Jikelo

MORE than a quarter of South Africa’s roughly 200 000 minibus taxis operate illegally, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Friday as he invited input for talks on regulating the industry.

“The discussion will seek to address the challenge posed by the prevalence of illegal operators,” Mbalula said.

“Out of the estimated 200 000 taxis in the country, it is our estimate that approximately 63 000 of these operate without operating licences and are therefore illegal.”

He said both self-regulation and reliance on provincial structures were failing to ensure taxi bosses complied with the law.

“The current fragmented approach which relies on the capacity of individual provinces to enforce public transport laws and weak support from the SAPS creates a culture of impunity.

“The conduct of taxi operators on the road displaying flagrant disregard of the law and the rights of other road users remains a pervasive problem. It is an open secret that self-regulation in this regard has failed.”

Mbalula made the comments as he launched public discussion papers ahead of a national taxi lekgotla that will take place on October 29.

“It is a sad reality that the taxi industry continues to operate as an informal sector on the fringes of the formal economy. It is mostly not structured along legally recognised business units such as companies or co-operatives,” he added.

This meant that the industry, despite generating revenue of more than R40 billion a year, did not pay corporate taxes and remained notorious for flouting labour laws.

“There are instances where some operators have come together and registered companies and co-operatives, but this is not the general character of the industry.”

The minister said there was a need for a single umbrella body for the industry, noting that the leadership of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) was often contested.

“The industry must be able to speak in one voice if it is to succeed in entrenching a culture of accountability. Unity of the industry is sacrosanct and central to any form of regulation or empowerment.”

The minister said the lekgotla would focus not only on regulating the industry but also on professionalising it.

Despite the attempts of several administrations since the end of apartheid, there were still seemingly “intractable bottlenecks” preventing its transformation and development.

“This is an industry that has tremendous potential to become a model for real empowerment.”

– ANA