Where authorities are going wrong in trying to resolve Cape minibus taxi violence and serving commuters
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Cape Town – The news of another Cape Town taxi operator being shot a day after a peace pact had been signed came as no surprise to commuters, who remain fearful of using this mode of transport.
Nor did it come as a surprise to a former mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, a member of the Western Cape legislature.
With too many rules and conditions that have seemingly been imposed rather than agreed – and the focus not being mainly on the commuter – Good party secretary-general Herron is concerned that the taxi pact is not sustainable.
He told IOL on Wednesday that ’’if you keep calling this a criminal industry’’ and only focus on certain illegal aspects, ’’you are not going to resolve this. The focus is not on the commuter and that is a big part of the problem’’.
The Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said the shooting at the Joe Slovo taxi rank yesterday had nothing to do with the B97 route dispute – which runs between the Mbekweni, Paarl, and the Bellville taxi ranks – with the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata).
Their comments could perhaps be attributed to the fact that a peace pact ultimatum stipulates that permits would be suspended if the violence and bloodshed persists. A police investigation into the murder will provide clarity.
Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, the spokesperson for Western Cape Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell, confirmed that the routes would not be suspended because the shooting was not related to the B97 route dispute.
Saying “it’s not yet uhuru for the taxi industry”, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula called the peace pact “epic”, but warned that the road to stability was long, with the B97 route remaining closed.
Amid the recent violence, commuters have been forced to use more expensive transport options, battling to get to work – fearing they might lose their jobs – or school, among others.
Commenting on Mbalula’s comments on the peace pact, Herron said: “It seems as if there are too many rules and conditions that have been imposed rather than agreed, so I am still concerned that that taxi pact is not sustainable.
’’I think the route allocation framework is what needs to be addressed and it feels like so many rules are being imposed by government, that it wasn’t really a pact the taxis were fully invested in it.
’’People don’t understand the minibus taxi industry. I don’ think there is enough respect for it. In the public space, I think people generally base their understanding of the industry on how the taxis drive on the roads, then that creates the image that that is the taxi industry, with bullying and unruly driving behaviour.
’’But the taxi industry transports nearly 70% of South Africans to and from work every day. They are an essential part of our economy. I think it is wrong to refer to the taxi industry as an informal mode of transport.
’’It is definitely so regulated it can only be regarded as normal, and the lack of trust and a relationship between the government and the taxi industry is at the heart of the inability to resolve this.
’’In the city and the province in particular, there has been a hostile attitude towards the taxi industry. They are regarded as informal, referred to as criminal and there has been no relationship-building and they haven’t take the mode of transport seriously since I left (in November 2018).
’’That is why the N2 Express collapsed, that is why political leadership is not able to contain or resolve this because they have no relationship with the taxi industry.
’’The current political leadership of the city and province are focused on the illegality and they are not focused on the mode which operates and provides millions of South Africans and in Cape Town hundreds of thousands of commuters access and mobility every day, where no other mode of transport can do so.
’’The problem with this crisis is that there is no leadership. From my own experience, in early 2012 I made an announcement about a new route that we wanted to introduce and I hadn’t consulted with the taxi leadership.
“In that moment, when they confronted me, I learned my own lesson about building and maintaining a relationship with the taxi industry. It doesn’t always have to be a friendly relationship, but one that respects the industry and consults and stays in regular touch.’’