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20 Apr 2009 09:31
African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma will address a summit of taxi operators at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Monday morning.
“We believe ... he will be able to take our prayers as a taxi industry forward to Cabinet and ensure that at least something has been done and an ear has been opened,” said Philip Taaibosch, general secretary of the South Africa National Taxi Council, which is holding the summit.
Taaibosch said on Friday that should the new government not heed the industry’s concerns then a national taxi strike would be rolled out.
“Taxi operators will have to embark on the resistance programme, which we believe will not be violent.
The stayaway will take place and we will embark on a massive strike in this country.”
Zuma and Transport Minister Jeff Radebe, who is also the ruling ANC’s policy head, are expected to be at the summit at about 11am to address delegates from all provinces.
The focus of the conference will be the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, planned for Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth where buses are intended to replace taxis on a number of designated routes in those centres.
Many taxi drivers are expected to be retrained as bus drivers as taxis are removed from the routes, with taxi owners encouraged to become shareholders in the scheme.
But taxi owners are concerned about what will happen to their own interests on routes that they say they spent decades developing.
They have also threatened to withdraw their services during next year’s Fifa World Cup in protest.
Also on the agenda for the summit is the lifespan of operators’ licences.
Taaibosch said the licences currently have a seven-year lifespan, but they would prefer them to be unlimited so that they can be sold, or transferred to a family member on retirement.
The ANC said that Zuma’s visit was part of the party’s commitment to “reach out and address stakeholder concerns”.
Since the minibus taxi industry surfaced in the late 1970s, the government and industry have often been at odds over how it should operate.
One of the flashpoints during regularisation attempts has been a recapitalisation programme introduced in 2000, which saw operators offered a sum of money to scrap the smaller vehicles they used in favour of larger taxis the government felt would have a better safety record.
Last month Johannesburg commuters were left stranded as thousands of taxi drivers protested against the BRT system.—Sapa
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