Wednesday’s planned protest cancelled
THE PLANNED taxi protest against the government on Wednesday has been suspended for further engagement on the issues raised by the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) during its meeting with the government on Friday.
However, the taxi industry has warned the government that it would not hesitate to resume its protests.
Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi said yesterday that the meeting on Friday agreed to address issues raised by Santaco related to taxi subsidies, taxi operating licences and access to finance by taxi operators.
The first of the further engagements between the taxi industry and the government will take place tomorrow.
“In taking the discussions forward, the meeting agreed to establish committees to deal with these issues. The committees will incorporate members from Santaco as well as those from the national and provincial spheres of government,” Maswanganyi said.
Boy Zondi, the second deputy president of Santaco, said they had told Maswanganyi on Friday that “it cannot be business as usual” in the taxi industry, because he is the seventh minister of transport that they have engaged in discussions.
Zondi said the minister and those involved in the discussions with Santaco needed to ensure there was a speedy resolution to the issues raised by the industry and that they were seen as assisting the industry.
“For now, we are appealing to all the taxi operators and assuring the public at large that on July 12 there will be no mass action. However, if we do get frustrations while discussions are taking place, we still have the takkies (to march).
“But we will not just go out there and march. We will tell the minister that we are seeing no progress… have no option but to go out and march,” he said.
Maswanganyi said the taxi industry as a mode of transport accounted for more than 68 percent of the daily commuting public and transported almost 15-million people daily.
He said this meant the taxi industry remained the most preferred mode of transport.
Maswanganyi said public transport, particularly rail and buses, currently received government subsidies, but the taxi industry did not, although the government had the taxi recapitalisation programme that it was in the process of reviewing.
“It is therefore inevitable that the issue of the subsidy of the taxi industry needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
“We have noted the need to address backlogs at provincial regulatory entities that deal with operating licences. We agreed jointly through the department, provincial departments and municipalities that we will look at this matter and find a solution.
“In regard to access to finance, if you remember some weeks back members of Santaco went public and had a strike, raising the matter whereby there are financial institutions that are charging exorbitant interest rates to their operators when they apply for finance.
“To this end, we are going to involve other government departments, including the Treasury and its agencies, to explore other possible funding mechanism.
“As government we are therefore prepared to assist Santaco to resolve the three issues,” he said.
Maswanganyi added that the government was committed to getting all modes of public transport subsidised, particularly rail, buses and taxis, but in terms of its policy of subsidisation it still had to decide whether it subsidised the operator or commuter. He said they would look at that policy position with Santaco and he would take it for a decision by the provincial transport MEC’s before submitting it to the Cabinet for a final decision.