The Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) updated the Committee on the Special Dispensation Model for normalisation of RSA/Lesotho Passenger Transport Operations. The briefing covered the period from 4 December 2012 until the present. The Committee had outlined certain milestones which the C-RBTA had to reach, and wanted to learn what short-term solutions had been implemented over the 2012 festive season and the 2013 Easter period.
The Agency reported that there was supposed to have been an executive consultation with the Presidency, the Portfolio Committee for Transport and the Minister of International Relations, but it had not yet taken place. The C-BRTA had had an engagement with the Kingdom of Lesotho Transport Ministry, and had briefed them. Municipalities and Basotho operators were supposed to have been briefed by the Lesotho Transport Ministry, but this had not happened.
The C-BRTA had met for a follow up with the Department of Trade and Industry South African Customs Union (dti SACU) in February 2013. Affected municipalities in Gauteng had been briefed in April on challenges and progress. One of the comments by SACU was that the intention of the model was to address RSA-Lesotho passenger road transport challenges, yet the contents of the model were only RSA-based. Issues of concern to the C-BRTA were SACU’s comments on the model, the delayed response by the Lesotho Transport Ministry to provide inputs on the model, and the lack of respect for the bilateral agreements South Africa had signed with its neighbouring countries
Members expressed disappointment with the briefing update. It was felt that the Agency was not taking the issues seriously and was undermining the Committee. The briefing contained very little new information. There seemed to be a stalemate and no progress had been made since last December. The action plan that had been laid out by the C-BRTA had had no timelines attached to it. Yet when the Committee had proposed an amendment to the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency Act, the C-BRTA had said an amendment was unnecessary. An amendment to the Act seemed to be one of the best solutions to solving the conflict.
In the interest of fairness, the Committee decided to give all stakeholders at the meeting the opportunity to express their views. Inputs were made by the Free State MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), the Madiboho Transport Forum and the RSA-Lesotho Cross-Border Corridor Committee.
At one stage, the Chairperson realised that emotions were running high and asked everyone to calm down. At the request of the National Department of Transport, the Committee was asked not to require the C-BRTA to respond to questions and comments, but rather to request all stakeholders to go back and deliberate on finding a solution to the conflict. After two weeks, a meeting could be reconvened with the Committee. After careful consideration the Committee agreed to the request to meet up with all stakeholders -- not in two weeks’, but rather three weeks’ time – in the hope of finding a workable solution.
The Chairperson welcomed the efforts of the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) in trying to find a solution to the challenges that had been identified the last time the Committee had met with them in December 2012. He asked where the Director General of the National Department of Transport (NDOT) was.
Mr Sipho Dibakwane, from the Director General’s office, explained that the Director General was meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Transport over the Budget Vote. Mr Chris Hlabisa, Deputy Director General: Roads, NDOT, would be standing in, but had been a bit delayed at Cape Town International Airport.
The Chairperson stressed the importance of the issue that was before the Committee.
Mr M Jacobs (ANC, Free State) complained that the briefing document had been provided to members only at the meeting. Members should have had the document beforehand. He felt that the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency was undermining the Committee.
Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE, Eastern Cape) agreed with Mr Jacobs. He asked whether the non-distribution of the briefing document was an oversight or whether it was deliberate.
Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) was also unhappy with the situation.
The Chairperson said that the sentiments of Members had been noted, and asked the C-BRTA to continue with the briefing.
Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA)
The C-BRTA updated the Committee on the Special Dispensation Model for the normalisation of RSA/Lesotho passenger transport operations. The update covered the period from 4 December 2012 until the present. The briefing was undertaken by Mr Sipho Khumalo Chief Executive Officer, C-BRTA, and Mr Mudunwazi Baloyi, Executive Manager: Facilitation, C-BRTA. Other members of the delegation from the Agency were Mr Ronald Stuurman, Executive Manager: Regulatory, and Ms Madumelana Makaana, Senior Manager: Cross Border Operations.
Mr Baloyi commenced with a brief introduction and background to the issue. Members were already aware of what the issue was. They were more interested in developments since 4 December 2012. The C-BRTA had proposed five options. These were a special dispensation, stringent compliance, a legislative mandate, a transition window and special emergency measures. A decision had been taken to merge the options dealing with the special dispensation, the transition window and special emergency measures.
After the Committee meeting on the 4 December, milestones had been set for the C-BRTA to reach. The milestones included the development of a short-term emergency festive season plan which was needed to prevent violence from erupting during the festive season. The feasibility of the Special Dispensation Model had to be tested over the festive season and Easter weekend. The C-BRTA had participated at the Joint Bilateral Commission for Cooperation between the RSA and the Kingdom of Lesotho at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, where the development of the Special Dispensation Model to resolve taxi operation challenges was tabled to the economic cluster. The security concerns regarding vehicles and passengers were taken up by the security cluster. The last milestone was the re-establishment and confirmation of joint ventures and concurrence between Basotho and South African cross-border operators.
Members were provided with specifics on the short-term solutions implemented over the festive season. Solution one was maintaining the current status and solution two was to have stringent law enforcement measures.
Mr Baloyi elaborated upon progress against activities outlined in the proposed model. There was supposed to have been executive consultation with the Presidency, the Portfolio Committee for Transport and the Minister of International Relations, but unfortunately this had not yet taken place. The C-BRTA did have engagement with the Kingdom of Lesotho Transport Ministry and had briefed them. Municipalities and Basotho operators were supposed to have been briefed by the Lesotho Transport Ministry, but this had not happened.
Interaction with cross-border operators and with Free State provincial operators had taken place in October 2012. The Free State Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) had also been briefed in October and a meeting with government stakeholders had taken place in November. The C-BRTA had met for follow-up with the Department of Trade and Industry South African Customs Union (dti SACU) Desk in February 2013. Affected municipalities in Gauteng had met in April 2013 to be briefed on challenges and progress.
The Committee was given insight into implementation activities, but most of them had remained unimplemented, which was discouraging to Members. Detail was also provided on the monitoring of cross- border passenger operations at Caledonspoort, Ficksburg Bridge and Maseru Bridge.
The dti (SACU) Desk comments on the model were also communicated to members. One of the comments was that the intention of the model was to address RSA-Lesotho passenger road transport challenges, yet the contents of the model were only RSA-based. Mr Baloyi said that the dti was totally correct, as comments from Lesotho had not been received as yet.
Some of the issues of concern to C-BRTA were SACU’s comments on the model, the delayed response by the Lesotho Transport Ministry to provide inputs on the model, and the lack of respect for the bilateral agreements South Africa had signed with its neighbouring countries. The way forward would be to address the comments made by SACU, to await feedback from Lesotho’s Transport Ministry and to deploy law enforcement agencies to provide security and safe passage for passengers and vehicles.
Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE, Eastern Cape) said that he now understood why the follow-up briefing document had not been forwarded to the Committee beforehand. It was because the document carried very little new information.
On page five of the briefing document, only the last two bullets had provided updated information. If he had been part of the task team, he would not have briefed the Committee on the occurrences appearing on page six. The occurrences were a reflection of the non-implementation by C-BRTA. The C-BRTA kept on telling the Committee that the C-BRTA Act should not be changed, yet the occurrences mentioned on page six were happening.
He asked what the current situation at Ficksburg Bridge was. He also referred to page seven, which contained the Department of Trade and Industry’s comments on the model.
Most of the information presented to the Committee was old information. He felt that the C-BRTA was arrogant and considered itself to be “the alpha and the omega.” They were not even interested in amending the C-BRTA Act, which would perhaps solve the problems that were being faced at present. Referring to page eight, which dealt with the C-BRTA’s way forward, he said that it did not feel as if there had been a task team working on the issues for the past year. The targets set were old targets and no timeframes had been set. He suggested that the present meeting with the C-BRTA should be the Committee’s last, as nothing was being achieved. Perhaps a joint meeting between the Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Transport, with the Minister of Transport in attendance, could achieve something.
Ms L Mabija (ANC, Limpopo) felt that not only the C-BRTA should be given the opportunity to speak. Other organisations present at the meeting, like taxi organisations, should be given the opportunity to speak as well.
Mr Groenewald felt that the C-BRTA and taxi organisations were not working together as a team to sort out issues. The C-BRTA was not listening to taxi operators, which made the taxi operators angry. All mechanisms needed to be in place to resolve the issues. At present, the C-BRTA and taxi associations had their own respective regulations and rules. The track record of the C-BRTA was also not good. The Auditor General’s Office had given the C-BRTA a qualified audit report from 2007 to 2012. There was also irregular expenditure and there was an amount of R46m of non-verified revenue. He was concerned that the C-BRTA was to be linked with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL). Another issue was non-compliance by the C-BRTA with the Public Finance Management Act. He asked the C-BRTA why things were going wrong. Why was there no teamwork?
Mr Jacobs agreed with Ms Mabija that the Committee needed to hear inputs from other stakeholders as well. He was disappointed with the C-BRTA. The C-BRTA had not even apologised to the Committee for providing members with the briefing document just as the meeting was to commence. On 4 December 2012, the Committee had requested the C-BRTA to come up with a short- term solution to the issues at hand. What the C-BRTA had done was simply to implement what they wished to. The C-BRTA was taking the Committee for granted. The Committee had suggested an amendment to the C-BRTA Act, which the C-BRTA had said was not necessary. The C-BRTA had said that they could rather put resources in place. He referred to page five of the briefing document, and commented that there was not much said on the page -- only that the C-BRTA had met with the dti and municipalities. The action plan of the C-BRTA was also vague, and no timelines or timeframes had been set. The Committee had had enough of the C-BRTA. It was time to have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Transport and the Minister of Transport to sort out the issues.
Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga) felt that the C-BRTA was not taking matters seriously. The unresolved issues were giving Members sleepless nights. Everyone needed to put their heads together to come up with a solution. The short-tem solution of the C-BRTA did not say a thing. Had there been meetings with other government departments besides the dti? What solution had emerged from the meeting with the dti? Had the C-BRTA also met with the Department of Transport? All stakeholders needed to sit down together. She agreed with other members that the briefing document contained nothing.
The C-BRTA had stated that they were still awaiting comment from the Lesotho Government. Had the C-BRTA made follow-ups with the Lesotho Government as to when comment could be expected?
One of the issues of concern for the C-BRTA, mentioned in the briefing, was “reported incidences of harassment”. What were the incidences of harassment? The C-BRTA seemed not to take things seriously. Members wanted these issues to have been resolved before Parliament closed for the next elections.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) noted that sometimes humans tended to complicate things. He understood that there were laws and international agreements that needed to be abided by, but there were also livelihoods of people at stake. Operators in South Africa could not make a living, but their counterparts could. Operators were fined and could not make a living. How was the issue to be addressed? Easter and the festive season were the times when taxi operators should be “coining it”, but instead their attempts at making ends meet were being hampered. The issue was very emotional to him, as he had to answer to his constituents.
The Chairperson asked the Free State Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) on Police, Roads and Transport, Mr Butana Khompela, to address the Committee.
Mr Khompela said that the issue affected the Free State Province the most. He regularly received cellphone messages from the Chairperson of the Madiboho Taxi Association complaining about the issue. He said that Madiboho was even tempted to say that the C-BRTA had more powers than provinces. A change in legislation was needed. The Committee was empowered to amend the C-BRTA Act. The amendment would change the conditions at the Lesotho border to the benefit of the lives of people around the border. The Free State Province had worked with the C-BRTA on the short-term solutions. It was a difficult situation and action was needed in order to prevent further violence in the Free State area. When he returned home, he would act in the interests of the people of Free State and its taxi operators. The C-BRTA would simply have to realign themselves. Talks with the Minister of Transport had already taken place. Even if he had to undermine the C-BRTA, he would do so.
The Chairperson requested everyone, including the MEC, to cool down. He was aware that the issue was painful and that emotions came into play.
Adv T Phahlo, Department of Transport, Free State, said that he had been directed by the MEC to address the Committee. He conceded that he was also a member of the task team who had worked on addressing the issues at hand. There were issues where the Department of Transport in the Free State agreed and disagreed with the C-BRTA. The Department had made inputs on the issue on 17 May 2013. The MEC had asked to meet with the C-BRTA before the present meeting, but this had not materialised. A teleconference call was supposed to have taken place with the C-BRTA, but it also had not happened. No consistent and sustained communication was taking place. He was aware of the C-BRTA Act and the various agreements that were in place. The Committee had in 2011 done a provincial visit to the area and had listened to the complaints of taxi operators. The Free State Department of Transport had made presentations to the Committee. He noted that not a single member of the C-BRTA had attended the meeting. The Committee had given the Free State Department of Transport six weeks to come up with a model of alternatives to deal with the issues. A task team had been formed and consultations had taken place. A submission had been made to the Committee on how to address the issues. However, the fact of the matter was that no progress was made.
The reality was that the situation was regressing. There was a lack of commitment to change the situation. There was a major flaw in the process. The C-BRTA was a creation of the C-BRTA Act. It was an agency of the Department of Transport. How could the C-BRTA be the leaders of the task team that would change the Act? They would then be working themselves out of existence. The mandate of the C-BRTA stemmed from the Act. The C-BRTA was the wrong organisation to lead the task team in amending the C-BRTA Act, as it directly affected them. He felt that the National Department of Tourism should be leading the exercise. If the status quo remained, then nothing would change.
Mr Philip Taaibosch National Secretary General of the SA National Taxi Council (SANTACO) said that in 1998, taxi violence was already taking place and SANTACO had been called upon to find a solution to the violence and transport problems in South Africa. The violence had subsided and the government had established registrars’ offices in the various provinces. However, it had emerged that there was also another body doing the registration of taxi operators other than these provincial registry offices. It was presumed that he was referring to the C-BRTA. SANTACO was willing to listen and would assist in finding a solution.
Mr July Msiza, President of SANTACO, believed that a solution could be found to the problem. SANTACO could go back and put together a presentation on what it recommended needed to be done. SANTACO had a major role to play in resolving the problems. They did not wish to push the C-BRTA away.
Mr Daki Qumbu, Chairperson SANTACO Free State, said that the Free State was negatively affected by the situation at hand. During the C-BRTA’s briefing he had been tempted to object to certain things. He referred to pages five and six, and said that the C-BRTA had spoken about consultation and implementation and the conclusion of joint venture projects. He begged to differ with them. It was felt that the C-BRTA was elevating the RSA/Lesotho Cross-Border Corridor Committee to associations. The RSA/Lesotho Cross-Border Corridor Committee had invited SANTACO to a meeting in Vereeniging where they had been required to “rubber stamp” agreements that would negatively affect Free State taxi operators. Joint venture agreements between the RSA/Lesotho Cross Border Corridor Committee and Lesotho taxi operators had already been concluded, and SANTACO had been asked to rubber stamp them. SANTACO had asked to see the joint venture agreements, but was never allowed to see them. SANTACO had asked what the RSA/Lesotho Cross Border Corridor Committee’s status was and where their constitution was. No response had been received from the C-BRTA, and they had alleged that SANTACO members were engaging in intimidation tactics. From the 4 December 2012 meeting up until now, there had been peace. The conflict had started because of C-BRTA issuing permits. If it stopped the issuing of permits, then the conflict would cease. The conflict had started when cross-border permit holders were told by the C-BRTA or the RSA/Lesotho Cross Border Corridor Committee, to cross by force. He noted that inland operators connived with Lesotho operators and did not take into account existing Free State operators.
Mr S Nkatane, Madiboho Transport Forum, stated that from December 2012, meetings with Lesotho cross-border operators had been held. The formation of the RSA/Lesotho Cross Border Corridor Committee by the C-BRTA was causing the conflict. He said that the C-BRTA was fuelling the fire. The way the C-BRTA was acting, it was only interested in the revenue that it was receiving from the issuing of permits. The C-BRTA had not consulted with Madiboho since December 2012. He hoped the C-BRTA would take its mandate from the National Department of Transport.
A representative from the RSA/Lesotho Cross-Border Corridor Committee reminded everyone present that South Africa had international agreements with its neighbours which it needed to honour. There was also the C-BRTA Act, which Members themselves had passed. The Act needed to be respected. The C-BRTA and the National Department of Transport had the responsibility of enforcing the C-BRTA Act. He asked how it was possible that four taxi associations could object to what 20 had agreed upon. How could the four associations object to the C-BRTA Act? A meeting with Madiboho had taken place in 2012. It was true that there was an agreement with Lesotho taxi operators, but the intention was to absorb Madiboho into the agreements as well. Madiboho had alleged that they were only asked to rubber stamp the agreement. They represented only four associations. The issue was around the C-BRTA Act and multilateral agreements with South Africa’s neighbouring states. It was about cross-border operations, not inter-provincial operations.
The Chairperson reacted that the Committee knew what the responsibility of the C-BRTA was. All the Committee wished to know was what developments had taken place since the last meeting was held in December 2012.
The representative from the RSA/Lesotho Cross Border Corridor Committee continued that there was a conflict of interest among different law enforcement agencies as well. Neutral law enforcement was needed for the cross-border law enforcement inspectorate. The disregard of cross-border permits was illegal. He asked why vehicles with valid permits were being impounded by Free State law enforcement officials. How could provincial law enforcement take sides with taxi associations? The Committee had formed the C-BRTA in terms of the C-BRTA Act. The Committee should give the C-BRTA powers to perform their work. Regarding the multilateral agreement with Lesotho, he asked whether South Africa was doing enough.
Mr Jacobs reiterated the Chairperson’s sentiments that the Committee simply wanted input on developments that had taken place since December 2012.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had done its best to get everyone on board. A solution was needed. The C-BRTA would be given an opportunity to respond. An entire day was needed to deal with the issue. He referred to the briefing document and said that the C-BRTA should provide timeframes under the paragraph “the way forward”. He also asked why the C-BRTA had not met with Mr Khompela and had also not done teleconferencing. The C-BRTA needed to meet with the MEC.
Mr Chris Hlabisa, Deputy Director General: Roads, National Department of Transport, commented that the present interaction had helped a great deal to understand issues better. There seemed to be an upward delegation which needed to be corrected. He wished to request of the Committee that the C-BRTA not be engaged further on the issues discussed. It would be better that everyone go back and meet again for a day or two to discuss the issues and come up with solutions. He suggested that a meeting be held again within two weeks after robust discussion had taken place between various parties.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would have to be consulted over the request.
Ms Mabija agreed with Mr Hlabisa’s request and said that it was not necessary for the C-BRTA to respond to matters discussed, as the Committee was already disappointed. She stated that if she had the authority, she would dissolve the C-BRTA. Members got upset every time they met with the C-BRTA.
Mr Jacobs said that he wanted to agree to the request, but he had no faith that anything would come of it. He was not sure whether it was the C-BRTA itself or its staff that were problematic. Resolutions that the Committee had taken had not been implemented. If the Committee agreed to the request, timeframes needed to be set. If the C-BRTA Act needed to be amended, the Committee had the authority to do so.
Mr H Groenewald (DA, North West) said what was lacking was teamwork from all institutions. There should be agreement to get all stakeholders together. People were suffering because the issue could not be resolved.
Mr Mlenzana said that Mr Hlabisa’s suggestion was a good one. He felt that two weeks was long enough to discuss issues and to reconvene a meeting.
Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) said that there was agreement among Members that the suggestion should be accepted. He noted that legislation had been passed in order to govern behaviour. If the legislation was not working, then it should be amended. Amending the C-BRTA Act did not mean that the Committee was undermining legislation. He agreed that multilateral agreements should be respected, but if it was not working it should be looked at again. Lesotho should also play its part.
The Chairperson said that the matter was settled. The Committee would reconvene a meeting after the issue had been thrashed out. He suggested, however, that three weeks be taken to settle discussions. People needed to be focussed and should learn to listen. He recommended that law enforcement should suspend some of their activities while the issues were being resolved.
The meeting was adjourned.
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