Speech by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP at the Top Six Taxi Organisation - Biannual Conference Turfontein Race Course, Johannesburg (13 September 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. Top Six Taxi Organisation is one of the leading stakeholders in the industry and therefore your Biannual Conference is significant for the industry as a whole.

At the outset let me congratulate you on your tenth anniversary this year. As it so happens the UDM also celebrates its tenth anniversary at the end of this month. I dare say both of these babies have grown into strong youngsters and now we must brace for the teenage years!

It is true that the industry is old in this country and has admirably filled the public transport vacuum created under Apartheid. However the industry still faces many challenges, like violence.

Many lives have been lost because of conflicts over routes and parking. As your industry grows one of the major concerns of the public is whether the people will be safe in their preferred mode of transport. The safety of the public must be your primary concern as an industry.

The other challenge facing the industry is this perception that taxies ingeneral do not obey the traffic laws. It is not justifiable to recklessly ignore the law, because it borders on promoting lawlessness and in the process contributes to major accidents. What perhaps you should campaign for is whether South Africa should not follow the example of other countries and allocate public transport lanes on the busier highways. It is up to you to engage Government and lobby for these types of measures.

As we continue with the transformation of the taxi industry, there is no doubt that there are certain national programmes that the industry should debate as citizens and as major stakeholders in society. One thing that is lacking among South Africans is a culture of ownership. People will board their taxies and operators will allow them to litter out the windows. We need to take ownership of our country and our environment. Government and other stakeholders must spend money on awareness campaigns to address this littering before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We don't want visitors in 2010 to say: "Yes, you won the right to host the World Cup, but you are also the world champions in littering." I think that the taxi industry is uniquely placed to help raise awareness about this vital matter. Maybe it might even provide a business opportunity for you by getting government to place these campaign adverts on and in your taxies.

I am busy, on this topic of the culture of ownership, to gather together stakeholders including Government, civil society, NGOs, labour and business to workshop the possibility of establishing a "Champions of the Environment" Foundation. This Advocacy Session will take place on 27 October 2007 in Gauteng. I hereby extend an invitation to your good selves to participate; a formal written invitation will follow shortly. The aim of such a proposed Foundation would be in line with the global trend towards sustainable development and environmental responsibility. All of us must unite to fight the dangers posed by climate change and environmental degradation.

Top Six's campaigns on the Taxi Recap are well-documented. By the look of things Government has finally listened to some of your concerns. Starting back in the days of Minister Maharaj, you pointed out the inherent defects of the Taxi Recap.

Indeed, you will recall that our early hopes for the Taxi Recap were dashed by a series of blunders on the part of Government. No consultation took place, and to this day consultation and communication aren't hallmarks of the process. Unilateral decisions were taken and processes instituted that were unrealistic and counter-productive.

When Government encountered legitimate resistance it responded with threats and intimidation. In many provinces transport departments began a sustained campaign of unjustified and vindictive targeting of the taxi industry. In some places any excuse would do to impound vehicles or deny operating permits.

To add insult to injury the Government set a series of deadlines that were entirely out of touch with reality. On the one hand Government was cracking the whip over the industry for not complying fast enough, but on the other it was missing all its own deadlines. The situation deteriorated to such an extent that Government would not let a weekly opportunity pass without blanket-defamations such as 'coffins on wheels' etc.

The years have come and gone, and the original deadlines are long-forgotten. The process is now well and truly under way, but it is still virtually impossible to get reliable and timeous progress reports on the status of the Taxi Recap.

Indeed, major outstanding issues still remain. The scrapping fee that Government is offering is insufficient and cannot be said to realistically bridge the gap between the earning potential of the vehicle being scrapped and the exorbitant cost of the new government-imposed vehicle. The industry remains caught between a rock and hard place - even if an owner cannot afford the new vehicle on the scrapping fee being offered, he/she cannot legally operate the old vehicle.

Another unresolved matter is the various so-called BEE deals and tenders that have been struck by Government - with taxpayer money - in connection with the Taxi Recap. It is the height of hypocrisy to speak of BEE to an industry that is black-owned and operated for decades now, and to parachute people in from outside the industry who now land huge and lucrative BEE deals in aspects of the Taxi Recap. The very real danger exists that corruption will rear its ugly head like it has done in the many other instances where government issued tenders to overnight millionaires with no knowledge of the industry. Too many tenders have been awarded to people whose only qualification has been political connections; this results in lack of delivery, wastage of taxpayer money and negative consequences for the affected industry. The taxi industry must guard against this danger and demand not only consultation but inclusion in tenders - as the rightful participants in this industry.

We will be watching Top Six in the next ten years and hopefully you will take note of the points I've raised here. Thank you once more for the opportunity to address you.

I thank you.

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