South Africa

South Africa

Taxi violence inquiry told of poor licensing system

Taxi violence inquiry told of poor licensing system
A view of Baragwanath taxi rank and traders market on July 24, 2019 in Diepkloof, Soweto. (Photo: Gallo images/Fani Mahuntsi)

‘One application can take the whole day to process. The Department of Transport says the problem is old and dilapidated infrastructure.’

A deluge of problems, including a crumbling licensing system and corruption took centre stage at the commission of inquiry into taxi violence sitting at the Emdeni Conference Centre in Johannesburg on Monday 10 February 2020.

Director of licensing Nonhlanhla Dube made no attempt to conceal the plethora of problems at the national licensing department. Making her submissions before the commission, Dube revealed staff shortages, crime, monitoring, law enforcement and a poor licensing system as some of the challenges at the department.

Licence administration has not been maintained for the past 19 years. The challenge in provinces is that the systems there are extremely slow. 

“One application can take the whole day to process. The Department of Transport says the problem is old and dilapidated infrastructure,” said Dube.

Dube said the system crashed in 2010 and virtually all data was lost and couldn’t be recovered. The Department of Transport only appointed a service provider in 2018. 

KZN, the province with the highest applications backlog, established its own system about five years ago. “It seems to be working,” said Dube. Mpumalanga and Western Cape had also established their own licensing systems.

Gauteng was in the process of establishing its own system but the department stopped it despite giving the other three provinces the green light.

Dube said when the system does function it is frequently down. Evidence leader Hendrik Potgieter wanted to know how long the system would be down for. Dube said this varied but the longest the system would normally be down is two weeks.

“When the system is down how does this affect your operations?” asked Potgieter. 

“There is no way we can issue applications when the system is down,” said Dube.

“Does this mean that when the system is down, operations stop?” asked Potter. 

“Yes,” replied Dube.

The system is not secure. 

“Officials try to bypass the system. It happened in Johannesburg where the assistant director said there had been attempts by officials to bypass the system.”

Dube said there was also a problem with unfilled vacancies.

“You find a person is performing the functions of three people,” she said.

“In Ekurhuleni the situation is bad, there are no supervising officials at all. There are 18 supervisory vacancies. The vacancy rate is affecting our work. In Tshwane there is only one official meant to monitor the whole region.”

Another problem is what Dube called runners. 

“We have a problem with syndicates/runners/middlemen working for taxi operators. They claim to represent operators and normally they promise taxi operators they can fast-track their applications for licences.” 

Dube said it was no secret that the runners have connections in the department. “They promise taxi operators they will fast-track their applications but often they never succeed.”

She said there are still runners in Tshwane and Johannesburg, but fewer than before. Dube told the commission that when the provincial MEC for Transport Ismail Vadi tried to remove the runners from their premises, the runners claimed to be applying for themselves and not on behalf of taxi operators.

She also told the commission that it was costly to advertise and gazette applications, and there were often backlogs in this process.

The hearings continue in Johannesburg on dates yet to be announced. DM

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