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Taxi Relief Fund extended to enable remaining claimants to secure payment

Vehicles parked in a taxi rank in Gauteng

Photo by Creamer Media

15th March 2024

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The Department of Transport (DoT) has obtained Cabinet approval to extend the Taxi Relief Fund (TRF) to November 30.

The request to extend the TRF was made to afford as many taxi operators as possible an opportunity to benefit from the fund.

"The taxi industry forms a crucial component of integrated public transport, and it is for this reason that we will always be sensitive to challenges facing the industry as any challenges affecting one component will have implications for the entire system," Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said in a March 14 media briefing.

The relief was to assist the taxi industry in dealing with the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The one-off relief was based on the principle of ex-gratia payment, to be paid only to taxi operators with valid operating licences.

The Minister pointed out that, when the initial TRF period lapsed on March 31, 2023, payments had been made to only 85 364, or 60%, of the 141 987 licence holders.

Further, the amount disbursed was only R426.8-million against the total R1.135-billion. The amount due per operating licence has, thus, also increased to R7 200 from the initial R5 000.

Operators who applied in the first round of the project should apply for a top up of R2 200, Chikunga advised.

Further, the DoT has appointed Taxi Recapitalisation South Africa (TRSA) to implement the second iteration of the fund.

"To intensify the marketing initiative and improve the outreach of the fund this time around, the TRSA plans to employ project ambassadors and deploy some of them as field workers into taxi ranks for live registration and face-to-face interaction. This is another form of creating jobs for our unemployed youth," Chikunga added.

REVISED RECAPITALISATION
Further, to grow the industry through sustainable empowerment projects, the DoT introduced the Revised Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (RTRP) in March 2019.

Under the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme, 72 652 of 135 894 old taxi vehicles were scrapped and R4.4-billion in scrapping allowance paid by September 2018, against a seven-year budget of R7.7-billion.

The focus of the RTRP was broadened beyond the scrapping of old taxi vehicles to include the identification and creation of opportunities for economic empowerment across the taxi industry’s value chain.

Since March 2019, a further 11 040 old taxi vehicles have been scrapped and R1.5-billion paid out to operators. This is a capital subsidy to the taxi industry to assist with the reduction of vehicle costs and capitalisation of the fleet, Chikunga said.

"Although the RTRP continues with the element of scrapping of old taxi vehicles, the scope of the programme was significantly broadened to focus on identifying and exploring opportunities to accelerate economic empowerment and sustainability within the taxi industry, ultimately reducing dependence on government funding," she said.

EMPOWERMENT
"The most significant means to get our people out of the challenges faced have involved intensified efforts of recovering, revitalising and maintaining or building new transport infrastructure, while growing transport industries.

"This requires transformation of the procurement environment and implementing an intensive skills development programme across the industry," Chikunga said.

To ensure effective contribution to the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, South Africa needs to continuously improve its public transport system through increased reliability, safety, affordability and accessibility of public transport services and ensure the provision of adequate supporting infrastructure.

The DoT had also addressed some of the challenges faced by some of the Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) projects and will continue to emphasise the role of IPTN provision as the most sustainable means for the transportation of citizens, she added.

To this end, the DoT will restart the stalled exploration of commercially viable projects to build a sustainable minibus taxi industry.

One of the projects will look at supporting the development of a 24-hour service and spares retail centre modelled on an automotive sector services hub, which will centralise township mechanics and related enterprises, and provide an environment focused on technical skills and training and small, medium-sized and microenterprise development in the automotive value chain.

"The strategy seeks to change townships from reservoirs of labour for towns into productive centres that are capable of absorbing local labour," Chikunga emphasised.

Another empowerment project involves a container retail solution, with retail containers to be placed at suitable locations to sell and distribute taxi vehicle spare parts and tyres at competitive prices, and with minimal loss of productivity to the operator.

"The basket of taxi-specific spare parts and tyres is carefully chosen alongside traditionally known fast-moving items often bought by the taxi owners and operators. These retail containers have been piloted in Mamelodi, Kempton Park and Olievenhoutbosch for now," she said.

Another set of projects being pursued for taxi empowerment investigates formalisation through fleet rationalisation and automated fare collection (AFC), which requires cooperation in the industry at a local level.

These projects also look at formalisation of employment, especially of drivers, and collective registration with the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

They also look at uniformity of operations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of services and to access the greater economies of scale available to the industry, the Minister said.

"The AFC brings a cashless system to the industry and immediately provides a safer environment, as well as flexible payment options, for commuters. This ensures better financial control through consolidated management of operations and resources, and also provides empirical data in support of transport planning and the commuter subsidisation model," Chikunga noted.

These formalisation projects are also investigating the rationalisation of vehicle fleets and optimisation of routes. Additionally, the introduction of a scheduled service provides a better quality of service, increased regulatory compliance and attention to safety, she said.

Another project is the Siyahamba mobile application. It is intended to serve multiple functionalities to support the association, operator, owner, driver and commuter, initially as an effective and more efficient mobile-based communication platform, and additionally as method of effective management.

"The app will further provide a more accessible platform for learning and development, and will serve as a means of instant communication from DoT. It will also result in the creation of a central database of minibus taxi vehicles, taxi operators, taxi drivers and routes they operate on," she said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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