Taxis to strike against bus rapid transit system

No taxis will operate throughout Gauteng on Tuesday as the United Taxi Association Forum will strike against government’s decision to put in place a bus rapid transit (BRT) system as of mid-2009.

Taxi drivers, owners and marshals will gather in Marshaltown at 4am on Tuesday to march against the system.

The forum said there was no government consultation regarding the implementation of the system, claiming it would lead to massive job losses within the industry.

“The government went ahead and introduced the BRT without thoroughly explaining to us how it was to work,” said Soweto Taxi Services’ Vusi Mazibuko, who is part of the forum.

Taxi owners say they cannot compete with BRT because the system will have dedicated lanes.

“These buses will put a lot people out of their jobs. It is unfair because the government introduced the taxi recapitalisation programme, in which we were expected to trade in our old taxis for new ones and then shortly after that it introduced the BRT,” Mazibuko said.

About 550 minibus taxis will be scrapped or removed from Johannesburg’s roads to make way for the city’s new bus system, officials said on Monday.

There would be no job losses as taxi drivers would be retrained as bus drivers, the Johannesburg taxi industry’s BRT steering committee told a press briefing.

“The agreement with government is that there may be no job losses,” said executive member of the committee Babu Maharaj.

The affected drivers could expect better salaries and formal benefits as they would be part of the bus industry.

The committee also called on the city’s taxi operators to be part of negotiations involving a possible R2,5-billion contract with the city. It was currently thrashing out a contract for operators to own the first phase of the BRT system over the next 12 years.

The first phase of the BRT was expected to be in place by June 1 2009. It would run from Regina Mundi church in Soweto, past the Orlando and FNB stadiums and end at Ellis Park stadium. Maharaj said he was very confident the industry would reach an agreement with the city of Johannesburg. “We have received the amount of kilometers that the buses will run. We are just waiting for their timetable,” he said.

Thembelihle Tshabalala

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