The next step in the evolution of South Africa’s minibus taxi industry should be corporatisation, says Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Dr Ismail Vadi.
“Making it a business is the next step and not just necessarily formalising the industry.”
Vadi believes South African taxi operators could organise themselves into cooperatives, as in Kenya, instead of into associations, as is currently the case.
This will allow the industry to start considering issues such as customer care and profitability, “the same as any other business”.
South Africa’s minibus taxi industry functions without operating subsidies from government.
This has, however, often made it difficult to regulate the industry. It has often been highlighted that some minibus taxis operate without the necessary permits. Also, scheduling does not exist. In addition, there are question marks around drivers’ work hours, sexual abuse on taxis, vehicle safety, as well as the largely cash-based industry’s absorption into the tax system.
As for the provincial Metrorail commuter service, notorious for being unsafe, overcrowded and heavily delayed – as experienced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 18 – Vadi is hopeful that the White Paper on National Rail Policy will be approved by the current Cabinet before the end of its term.
National and provincial elections will take place on May 8.
Should this White Paper be approved, it will allow for provincial governments to manage the Metrorail system within their borders, such as in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
“We believe this makes sense,” says Vadi.
Rail is currently a national competence, with the exception of the Gautrain, which falls under the Gauteng provincial government.
While the Gautrain is “modern and punctual”, one cannot say the same about the Metrorail system, run by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, says Vadi.
For any provincial or local government to take over the Metrorail system will not be an easy task, he adds.
“It will be a huge challenge.”
The Metrorail system has aging infrastructure, while it also faces numerous corporate governance challenges.
“You would need to rebuild the infrastructure, modernise it, get new rolling stock, a new signalling system and new stations,” says Vadi.
Should rail be devolved to provincial, or even municipal level over the next few years, any new provincial administration will have to look at fixing the system “as a matter of utmost importance”, says Vadi.
* Vadi has indicated he will no longer serve as the Roads and Transport MEC following the May elections, after spending nine years as the helm of the Department of Roads and Transport.