|Taxi operators are seriously concerned about Cabinetís decision to accept and implement a proposal to discontinue the use of 16 seater Kombis in favour of an untested larger mini-bus capable of carrying up to 35 passengers.The rationale used to justify this change is that smaller taxis that are currently in operation are prone to accidents and are responsible for the frequency of road accidents in the taxi industry.
Notwithstanding that there is no scientific study undertaken to prove this theory, and we are aware of no comparable precedents elsewhere to justify the adoption of this approach with all the attendant negative consequences for the beneficiaries of the taxi industry, the Cabinet hastily approves the adoption of this proposal.
It is reported that 41 000 jobs will be lost with the introduction of the proposed carriers. In reality the people involved in this industry come from a social background with large extended families on whom job losses will negatively impact. Not to speak of the auxiliary employees in the industry itself e.g. Touts.
The taxi operators are not convinced that the type and capacity of the current vehicles in operation are the reason for the accidents plaguing our roads. On the contrary, they believe vigorous law enforcement; proper training and change of attitudes on the road would stem the rate of road accidents.
In most accident cases involving both buses and mini-bus taxis the cause has been either or both the driverís fault or the roadworthiness of the vehicle.Consequently better-trained and properly motivated law enforcement officers must be deployed to monitor the industry and motorists in general.
The assumption that mini-bus taxis are the public carriers with a greater incidence of accidents is disproved by the increasing frequency of accidents involving big bus coaches with a larger number of fatalities in recent times.
A disturbing feature of this saga is the belief by operators that there has been no consultation with all the stakeholders before Cabinet took this decision. Neither does it appear the previous Transport Minister Mac Maharaj consulted and sought solutions from people involved in the industry.
The haste with which the proposal has been adopted and eagerness to implement it without applying suitable tests to ensure its validity raised fears, concerns and misgivings in the minds of the affected taxi operators that there might be a larger, more sinister picture in the back-ground responsible for the lack of transparency and undue haste.
South Africans want to see justice, and equity in the industry and we would not like a situation that creates the suspicion that the decision taken by Cabinet is calculated to benefit certain categories of people.
It is therefore strongly recommended that Cabinet puts its decision on hold, and appoint an independent body to make an objective evaluation of the problems facing the taxi industry, with view to provide equal opportunity to all sectors in the industry to make their input, for which opportunity has been denied.
The involvement of an independent evaluator would avert possible costly litigation in law courts that will result from the hurried implementation of the proposal without adequate consultation
HB Holomisa, MP
President United Democratic Movement