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TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 November 2002
MEDIUM-TERM EXPENDITURE BUDGET; TAXI TRANSFORMATION: BRIEFING BY MINISTER
Chairperson: Mr Jeremy Cronin (ANC)
Documents handed out:
- Medium-term Expenditure proposals by the Department
- Key Issues and Recommendations emerging from background research and subsequent hearings on progressive implementation of National Land Transport Transitional Act
- Draft Committee Report on this issue
The Minister of Transport spoke on budgetary expectations regarding the Department of Transport as well as the Taxi Transformation process which although complex, would ensure the formalisation of the Taxi industry and lead to increased road safety. The first vehicle of the Taxi Recapitalisation process is expected to be delivered during the first quarter of 2003.
The Chair drew the Minister's attention to the Committee's report based on research into the NLTTA and the public hearings which followed the research. The Committee considered the NLTTA to be a major and progressive move. Based on this report, the Committee felt that there was a need for capacity building which would be necessary for the NLTTA. At the moment there are lots of capacity problems and the key role of the National Department would be to spend time and money on capacity building. The NLTTA envisages subsidising other modes of transport, but at the moment they were not realising their vision.
Input from Minister
Mr Dullah Omar thanked the committee for the valuable role they play in helping the Department of Transport. He said that the Department expects a committee which is critical and willing to tell the Department where they are not doing enough. He is a fortunate Minister because the committee is not uncritical of the work the Department does. The Department is in much better shape than it was one year ago. They have built up the Department through training its people and handing over leadership which allows them to go forward. He noted that members of his team would deal with the two issues selectively - but this would in no way limit the committee's scope of questions. Mr Dan Pretorius would discuss the Department's Medium-term Expenditure Framework even though this has not been finalised. Mr Jerry Makokoane would discuss the Taxi situation - an area in which they have had considerable development. Mr Sipho Khumalo, the Road Traffic Management leader would speak at the next committee meeting on Road Safety but would comment on the bus accident which had occurred in Mmpumalanga the day before.
Medium-term Expenditure Budget
Mr Dan Pretorius said that the main issues in their medium-term expenditure budget submission had been presented to the Treasury. He went on to mention a few of the eight areas, which in turn had sub-components.
- They want to develop and implement a workable strategy.
- They want to deal with rail safety in order to stop the overloading problem and this may result in a rail safety regulator.
- The budget needs to address taxi issues like recapatilisation and transforming the taxi industry.
- Land and aviation strategy
- Road safety strategy
- In the future they are looking to develop an IT policy framework.
The Department had made a submission to Treasury asking that the Department may change its structure. The Treasury has agreed in principle, but not formally.
Mr Pretorius gave an overview of the current programmes 1, 2 and 3.
They have asked for additional funds for the railway and roads budgets.
Various figures and growth were discussed. The Chair made it clear that these figures were not set in stone, but that they gave the committee a good idea of the Department's strategy.
Mr Jerry Makokoane presentation: Taxi Transformation Process
He said that through SANTACO (South African National Taxi Council), they have been able to engage the taxi industry on issues such as how they would like to see a recapitalised vehicle. The taxi industry are the leaders in operating this kind of vehicle. They are optimistic about the EMS (electronic management system). They have tried to get a common sense on how to get the EMS operational. Because of the advances in the EMS there is agreement in principle. They want the taxi industry to play a substantial role in EMS because EMS would be a financial management tool, which will assist the taxi industry. It will make it easier for the taxi industry to track their cash flows and to deal with their debt.
Gauteng has the bigger commuter need, so in terms of the rollout, they would have precedence. The Department is busy engaging the taxi industry with regards to training needs for the EMS system. The Taxi drivers would need to know how to work the system. The Department will ensure that SANTACO will be kept informed of the ongoing process.
Mr J Slabbert (IFP) described the Taxi Recapitalisation process as a 'taxi industry dream and a Department of Transport nightmare' and advised the Minister of the difficulties involved in the process.
Minister Omar replied that the taxi recapitalisation process forms part of the larger policy of upgrading taxis and related facilities. As part of the process of formalising the taxi industry, these said processes would increase road safety and get more unroadworthy vehicles off the road. The first vehicle of the Taxi Recapitalisation process is expected during the first quarter of 2003.
The Taxi Industry must manage some of the maintenance of the new taxi. The Department is planning to introduce professional training courses for taxi drivers which will be accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority. The Minister noted that the planned demerit system would go along way towards improving the general conduct of taxi drivers - addressing a matter raised by some Members of Parliament.
He also agreed with Mr Slabbert that taxi routes needs regulatory attention and said the new licensing process should be route based. He assured him that compliance with the law and the overall relationship with the Taxi industry has improved over the last five years but he admitted that there are still challenges that must be faced.
A draft bill regulating tow trucks is expected early next year though the Minister stated his unhappiness with the fact that the bill creates another bureaucracy.
Given all these new programs, the Minister agreed with the committee that the public should be well informed and in this spirit a road show is being planned for the near future.
According to the Chairperson the discussion on taxi recapitalisation was important as preparation for a full meeting on this issue with the department in the future. For now, he suggested the current meeting deal specifically with the recent bus accident in Mpumalanga.
Mpumalanga bus accident
Mr Sipho Khumalo the Deputy Director General of the Department of Transport, outlined the details of the accident. He noted that preliminary investigations indicate the bus aquaplaned (a phenomenon where the vehicles' wheels slide on water without making contact with the road surface). He added that these findings are only preliminary. The minister later echoed this, though he did add that in his opinion the driver could be at fault. This happened in response to questions from Mr Slabbert on the condition of the bus and the causes for aquaplaning.
Sipho Khumalo and Jerry Makokoane Deputy Directors General of the Department of Transport believed the condition of the tour bus to be in order including the tyres.
In response to questions from Mr S Farrow (DP), the Minister stated that the Satchwell report would be finalised by the end of November 2002 and that the committee would be able to deal with this document early next year.
The Minister conitinued that, after fully investigating the many allegations, there is no new evidence in the Helderberg airplane crash matter to justify a re-examination. He added that Advocate Welsh had travelled extensively to gather statements from various relevant persons in search of said evidence.
Mr Farrow raised the issue of the Ports Development Bill as the Committee had not been given feedback on this document as promised by a department official.
The Minister explained that the committee would have a further opportunity to make recommendations on this issue and the meeting was thus concluded.
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