Roberto Quintas
Roberto Quintas

Taxi operators and drivers concerned about more 'lofty promises'

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 13, 2021

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Basil Nagel

CAPE TOWN - Congratulations councillor Roberto Quintas on your appointment as City of Cape Town mayco member for transport.

In a recent interview, you asked us to keep you and the City of Cape Town accountable.

We already do so, but we don’t get answers from the City.

We are counting on you to be more accessible during your term.

We have a particular interest in knowing how you will be dealing with the MyCiTi N2 Express route, as well as what your role will be in curbing further violence on over-traded taxi routes.

Your predecessors jumped ship to pursue other careers, or exited the party, or were only acting as temporary relief until their replacement came along.

Our concern, as local taxi operators and drivers, is that there will be more lofty promises that go nowhere.

What can we expect from your office during your term, specifically regarding the minibus taxi industry?

Can you advise us about both your mandate and your authority to work with the local minibus taxi industry?

For the industry to develop their independent business models, not within the scope of City projects, but rather to drive their own initiatives.

Not limited to property development, but by integrating transport services with the private sector and developing their own supply chain programme.

There is great emphasis placed on the MyCiTi model.

Resources are available to challenge the national government for control over rail, and there is an abundance of subsidy provision for Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS).

What will you be doing for the minibus taxi industry?

While the issue of subsidies remains a debatable topic, there are other avenues that we would prefer to pursue in the business environment.

What is particularly challenging is the red tape experienced when trying to move taxi-related business forward to deliver on our ability to create sustainability within our ecosystem.

Both provincial and local taxi operators experience resistance to their efforts to pursue commercial initiatives, especially as it relates to establishing commercial projects that would complement public transport interchanges.

The biggest misconception is that the whole industry is in chaos and conflict.

Setting aside the obvious blights on this industry, your average taxi operator and taxi driver are working in this environment to put food on the table and to look after their families.

This is not an easy business. It is a thankless one, and the few pockets of disruptive elements do not take away from the ability of our business to deliver commuters to their destination every day.

That drive and ambition can be harnessed to capitalise on aligned opportunities that require the same level of wide distribution and logistics.

What role will your office play in ensuring our business is not unfairly denied opportunities to grow and expand?

We are, after all, small business entrepreneurs first; the structures we find ourselves in, the source of all the chaos, are mandated by legislation, not by choice.

Our ability to earn an income becomes more difficult when there is a failed rail system; an overly compensated bus company that cannot operate without hundreds of millions of rands received in subsidy every year; and, a pet project such as MyCiTi that is bleeding and working to serve the city, and not working with the taxi industry, as was initially envisaged.

You have a competent public transport operator in the minibus taxi industry that you should be supporting. We do the work, the city spends their money elsewhere.

Can we address the following:

- Will you make yourself available for discussions with local taxi associations, taxi operators and taxi drivers in regard to their concerns, and meet them in the communities in which they operate?

- The City of Cape Town meets elected leaders in the industry, while operators on the ground are not privy to discussions regarding their future. We can no longer sit back and watch the carpet being ripped out from under us.

- Projects such as the MyCiti W6 infrastructure project addresses a critical need when it comes to road infrastructure; it also addresses opportunities for bus routes. However, what consideration has been provided for impacted operators in the taxi industry?

- Conflict that arises from over-trading on routes can be directly attributed to poor route management; a transport department that has its own challenges; and, no enforcement of legislation. This needs to be resolved by the three spheres of government, they need to get their house in order. What the industry requires is for the government to clean up the mess they made on the ground. Attempts at fixing the industry are still a top-down approach. When will that change?

- Between Provincial transport and the City of Cape Town, the only response to taxi industry concerns is a Section 91 and impounding. Neither of which is sustainable. The Blue and Red DOT programmes are a distraction, and a move away from hard-fought objectives. The Blue and Red DOT projects warrant so much more discussion, starting with transparency. The City continues, without fail, to play the carrot-and-stick card; sometimes they seem to forget that they are invited to take office by a generous public, who expect delivery on the Cape Flats. How long before citizens weigh up what they are promised and what this City actually delivers?

We look forward to meeting you to discuss valid concerns by taxi operators and drivers who rarely have an opportunity to meet officials to discuss their future.

Nagel is a taxi driver

Cape Times

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