Driv­ing a hard bar­gain

The gov­ern­ment’s long-stand­ing fail­ure to reg­u­late the taxi busi­ness has come home to roost

Financial Mail - - AT HOME & ABROAD - Paul Ash

ý On Sun­day, the SA Na­tional Taxi Coun­cil (San­taco) flipped the bird at the gov­ern­ment, metro po­lice of­fi­cers and any of its cus­tomers who might pre­fer to not ride in minibus taxis stuffed to the gills, and not just in this time of Covid.

San­taco said its mem­bers’ taxis would no longer op­er­ate at 70% ca­pac­ity but would in­stead travel full to make up for losses suf­fered dur­ing the lock­down.

So for­get ev­ery­thing the world has learnt in th­ese bru­tal months about how Covid19 is trans­mit­ted.

For­get that at last count, SA had more than 144,000 cases and 2,500 deaths.

For­get that there is no vac­cine and no cure.

Trans­port min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula called the taxi in­dus­try the back­bone of the na­tion — which, thanks to the in­san­ity of apartheid and so­cial de­vel­op­ment “plan­ning” and a cat­a­strophic state-run pub­lic trans­port sys­tem, it is.

Fill up: Com­muters at Barag­wanath taxi rank, Soweto

No one can doubt the taxi in­dus­try’s moxie. Look at the mid­dle fin­ger it gave the Nats in the 1980s as that gov­ern­ment failed to keep up with a surge of un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion as the peo­ple of the land voted against the lu­nacy of the home­lands sys­tem with the one bal­lot they had: their feet.

It is a true home-grown busi­ness, free of any taint of the old SA.

But if it was un­ruly in the early days, the ge­nie is prop­erly out of the bot­tle now.

Twenty thou­sand own­ers with 150,000 taxis; R16.5bn in an­nual turnover; 200,000 driv­ers (which, by the way, is the size of a pro­fes­sional stand­ing army).

The gov­ern­ment’s long­stand­ing fail­ure, de­spite years of car­nage, law­less­ness and gun­fire, to reg­u­late the taxi busi­ness, has come home to roost. Taxi bosses know that when the taxis stop, the econ­omy stops with them.

Now that’s re­alpoli­tik. Of course, what the gov­ern­ment needs to do is go af­ter the taxi bosses in­stead of send­ing cops to ha­rass the driv­ers. Oh, look! A uni­corn!

Sowe­tan/an­to­nio Muchave

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