Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande on Friday announced government interventions to transform the minibus taxi industry, through revising the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme.
The Revised Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (RTRP) resumed in March with the appointment of a new service provider, Anthus Services 84, as the technical partner responsible for the administration and management of the programme.
Moreover, government has decided to increase the taxi scrapping allowance from R91 100 to R124 000 per scrapped old taxi.
Nzimande indicated that the increase would help to address concerns raised by those in the taxi industry that the previous amount was insufficient to replace their vehicles.
Moreover, in this vein, he indicated that consultations with the industry had garnered approval for the revitalised programme.
The revitalisation is in keeping with government’s commitment to facilitate a conducive and enabling environment through legislative and strategic interventions to professionalise the taxi industry by making it user-friendly for both passengers and operators.
The taxi industry is estimated to transport about 15-million commuters a day – about 68% of the country’s commuters.
Nzimande indicated that, as part of the RTRP, government hopes to address the challenges facing the scholar transport and cross-border taxi operations.
In accordance with the mandate of the Department of Transport (DoT), Anthus has established Taxi Recapitalisation South Africa (TRSA) as the trading entity that will implement the RTRP.
To fulfil the transformation and sustainability requirements of the RTRP, 60% of the commercial benefits generated by the TRSA operations will flow to the taxi industry.
TRSA has already established sites in all nine provinces. These are operational and ready to receive applications.
The minimum requirements for applications to scrap old taxi vehicles remain the same as the previous Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP) process.
The TRP’s target was readjusted in 2017 to target the scrapping of 135 894 old taxi vehicles (OTVs).
A total of 72 653 OTVs had been scrapped and R4.4-billion in scrapping allowances had been paid out by the end of September 2018.
Under the RTRP, government will be extending the scope beyond the scrapping of the balance of the 135 894 OTVs to include several other elements.
Firstly, this will result in the development of sustainable commercially viable RTRP management solutions leveraging and exploiting opportunities available in the minibus taxi industry’s entire value chain with taxi operators as active and meaningful participants.
Commercial enterprises include the affordable supply of new taxi vehicles, finance, short-term insurance, spare parts, repairs, fuel, lubricants, electronic fare collection and property management.
Apart from reducing the taxi industry’s dependence on government over time, revenue generated from the commercial streams would be deployed to promote the sustainability of the minibus taxi industry and fund the continued recapitalisation of ageing new taxi vehicles (NTVs) beyond the current RTRP.
Secondly, the extent of illegal taxi operations across the country will be determined by conducting a nationwide survey to populate a comprehensive database of minibus taxi industry operators and operations.
The accurate statistics for the taxi industry will enable the DoT to undertake proper planning and embark on appropriate interventions.
Thirdly, the DoT intends to use the RTRP as a catalyst for change to the taxi industry’s current operating model.
The industry currently works on an individual taxi ownership model and collaborative route management structure through local taxi associations and regional, provincial and national taxi councils.
Nzimande highlighted that this model was the biggest reason for conflict and violence in the industry.
Therefore, the DoT aims to use the RTRP to unify the taxi industry by introducing collaborative ownership and operating models, using structures such as cooperatives and corporatisation.
Apart from optimising the profitability and sustainability of the industry by introducing economies of scale, the benefits of collaborative taxi industry ownership and operating models will include the provision of decent and secure employment to employees in the industry, such as the taxi drivers and rank marshals, with benefits such as decent salaries, housing allowances, medical aid contributions, hospital cover and pension fund, retirement fund and funeral cover contributions.
Nzimande said this would also eliminate existing competition among drivers and encourage responsible driver behaviour and passenger safety.
Moreover, the Minister averred that it would also promote training and skills development, thereby enhancing professionalism and customer service.
Lastly, he noted that it would create wealth for taxi operators by rationalising taxi routes, eradicating overtrading on routes and increasing profitability and sustainability.
TRSA has already started with the process to scrap the illegally converted Toyota panel vans as per the remedial actions set out by the Public Protector in the report, titled ‘Illegal Conversions of Toyota Quantum Panel Vans into Minibus Taxis’ that was released on March 27.
The report detailed how 2 353 illegally converted Toyota panel vans were being used to transport commuters.
Of the converted panel vans, 436 have been retrofitted. The remaining 1 917 illegally converted vans would have to be scrapped and the owners will receive an allowance, if the operators have an operating licence or permit.