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Cape Town taxi industry calls for more support and collaboration with government

Cape Town taxi industry calls for more support and collaboration with government
(Photo: From Left: Kyra Wilkinson | Sune Payne)

The City of Cape Town’s Urban Mobility Summit kicked off on Tuesday, and a key sentiment was that taxi operators needed to start thinking of themselves as ‘business owners’ rather than ‘taxi bosses’. For that, they need the government’s support.

The City of Cape Town’s Urban Mobility Summit, which began on Tuesday, 3 October, heard that the taxi industry needs support in areas such as technology and rethinking business models to create a conducive operating environment. 

The two-day event, being held at the DHL Stadium, is looking at the state of transport and mobility within Cape Town, and on day one it brought taxi officials together with city and provincial leaders, who were at loggerheads barely two months ago during the Western Cape taxi strike.

During a panel on the formalisation of the taxi industry, Haniefa Gaibe, the public transport component lead at the National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme (CSP), said thinking needed to be changed both within and outside the taxi industry.

“I think right now, instead of just trying to regulate and enforce the industry, let’s see how we can support them as a small business,” she said.

Government support could come from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition as well as the Department of Employment and Labour, which could look at issues of employment and remuneration within the industry. 

Gaibe said the industry’s current business model needed to change – and it should not come from the government alone, but also from the taxi sector.

She referred to fellow panellist Mandla Hermanus, from the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) Western Cape, who said that taxi owners needed to shift their minds from being just “owners” to “business owners”.

This, she said, was the right way to go and in that way, “government can say, ‘How do we support you as small business owners?’.”

Along with Gaibe and Hermanus, the panel consisted of Deidre Ribbonaar, chief director of transport operations at the Western Cape Mobility Department, who cautioned Gaibe and Treasury about overstepping their boundaries, as the departments dealt with and built relationships within their respective sectors.

“I wouldn’t want to budget Treasury’s books,” she remarked with caution, which drew laughter from the floor. 

Blue Dot initiative

Formalisation has been a topic that has never materialised into reality, over two decades of talks. According to the Western Cape MEC for Mobility, Ricardo Mackenzie, the minibus taxi industry transports up to 75% of public transport passengers in the province.

During the panel discussion, the closure of the Blue Dot initiative, which was a joint project between the industry and the provincial government, was discussed. The project ended in November 2022 because of a lack of funding.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why Santaco views taxi strike as more than just a fight against a new City of Cape Town by-law

Hermanus said the cancellation of the project was “totally bizarre”. He said one of the key elements of the Blue Dot initiative that benefited commuters and drivers was safety, which included aspects such as checking if a taxi was legitimately on the route it was travelling on and who that taxi belonged to.

Hermanus said aspects of the project should have been maintained, not just for the taxis “but ultimately for the commuters”. At this point, the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for Mobility, Rob Quintas, nodded in agreement. 

Hermanus also called for technological assistance from the government – both local and national spheres – which should not come as “handouts, because that’s not empowering, that’s disempowering”. He argued that handouts would lead to the industry being at the mercy of the government, rather than it receiving co-developmental assistance. 

“All we always cry for [is] the government to recognise that we operate in a very chaotic space. We are trying to professionalise; we are unsubsidised; we plough billions of our own rands to provide a service that is a government responsibility,”  Hermanus said.

He added that “the least” the government could do was ensure that the environment in which the industry provided its service “is conducive for us to provide this service, and to ensure that the levels and the quality of the service we provide are then improved to a standard and a level as required by government”.

The summit will continue on Wednesday, 4 October, and will include a panel on city-delivered services at a time when vandalism, theft, intimidation and crime undermine infrastructure programmes. Another panel will discuss urban mobility solutions in a complex environment and having to overcome challenges such as expanding urbanisation, travelling behaviour, load shedding and increasing resource scarcity. DM

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  • Ben Harper says:

    Start paying taxes on your revenue THEN you can ask for government support. The taxi industry is chaotic because of greed and lawlessness

  • Samuel Ginsberg says:

    What an absolute cheek! Follow the rules of the road, pay your fines when you get them, pay tax and then your can ask the government for stuff. Until then you’re not a business you’re a mafia.

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