Taxi Recapitalisation Programme & Road Traffic Amendment Bill: briefings

NCOP Public Services

25 June 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


25 June 2003

Chairperson: Ms P Majodina

Documents handed out:
South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO): Memo to the President
Taxi Recapitalisation (PowerPoint Presentation)
National Road Traffic Amendment Bill (B31B-2003)

The Committee was briefed on problems with the conversion of drivers' licences and the exemptions and extensions to deadlines proposed in the Bill. The Committee was also briefed on progress with the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme, particularly in the wake of a memorandum from the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) to the State President. The Departments of Transport and Trade and Industry explained SANTACO's concerns and what Government was doing to address these issues through engagement and negotiation. The Committee asked that every effort be made to include SANTACO in the process.

National Road Traffic Amendment Bill

Mr John Motsatsing, Traffic Legislation Officer of the NDOT, said in his presentation that there had been problems with the conversion of licences in identity documents (IDs) as well as with some that were not part of IDs. Provision needed to be made for circumstances in which some information required for drivers' licenses was not contained in ID documents. Such people need more time to convert their licences. There were also problems in accessing the necessary information in the case of holders of licenses from the former (Transkei, Boputatswana, Venda and Ciskei) TBVC states. The aim of the Bill was to help drivers to convert and to assist the Department of Home Affairs in accessing the required information. It would also make provision for people who could not convert in time - those in prison, medical facilities or people contracted to work outside South Africa.

The Chair pointed out that license holders in the former TBVC states already had exemption until September. She wanted to know what was going to happen now.

Mr V Windvoël (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether this meant that anyone who had been registered in the TBVC states would now have more time to apply. He wanted to know why the required information for conversion was not available on the Department's own database.

Dr P Nel (NNP, Free State) asked whom exactly the six months grace period mentioned in the bill will apply to.

The Chair observed that, although people with licences in ID documents that did not contain the necessary information were going to be given another opportunity, some had already been fined for not having the right format.

Mr Motsatsing replied that there would only be exemptions in stipulated cases. Those who had already been fined would not qualify. The six month-period pertained to people in prison during the conversion period who could produce a release form from the Department of Correctional Services, as well as those in medical facilities or on contract outside South Africa at the time who would also be required to provide documentary evidence to that effect. Regarding the issue of license information not contained in ID documents and the Department not having access to required information, Mr Motsatsing said there had been difficulties in obtaining data from the former TBVC states. TBVC licence holders would now be able to convert their licences beyond the September deadline. There would be a postponement from September to a new cut-off date to be announced by the Minister.

Mr Windvoël asked what the Department was doing to inform people about these issues. Did traffic officers know about the temporary exemption for TBVC license holders?

Mr N Raju (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) asked about the position of people with drivers' licences from neighbouring states. What would happen if such a person was apprehended for a traffic offence?

Mr Motsatsing said licences from neighbouring states were permitted as long as they were valid in their countries of origin. If an offence took place, normal procedures were followed. Fines were issued on the basis of the drivers' license and residential address. The Department had interacted with the provinces regarding the transfer of information to law enforcers about the validity of former TBVC licences. These license holders would not be prosecuted.

The Chair pointed out that ordinary people on the street should know about this. Traffic officers did not want to listen to you on the road when you told them about an exemption for former TBVC license holders. The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill was a Section 76 Bill. It will be dealt with during the third term. If the provinces wanted public hearings, these should be allowed.

Mr Windvoël asked when TBVC license holders would be able to convert to the new card system. The exemption could not be indefinite. He also asked what would happen when a South African license holder who had not been able to convert to the new system drove to a neighbouring country.

Mr Jerry Makokoane, Deputy Director General: Public Transport and Planning, said that the former TBVC states had records that were separate from those of the old South Africa. There were ongoing efforts to bring the data up to date. Many people in TBVC states had converted their licences. Some people were experiencing problems and the Bill was trying to accommodate them in the best possible way. South Africa was a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADEC), which had a committee responsible for roads and traffic. Neighbouring countries were engaging with and updating one another on the issues concerned. South Africa's neighbours were aware that the conversion process had not been completed.

The Chair asked if a Transkei license holder would be able to convert in Johannesburg without being told to go back to the place where the license had been obtained.

Mr Motsatsing replied that the Department was trying to make that type of process as easy as possible.

Ms E Gouws (DA, Eastern Cape) wanted to know how long it would take. Was it possible to convert a TBVC licence in Johannesburg?

Mr Makokoane replied that this should be possible.

Departments of Transport & Trade and Industry
The Chair asked Mr Makokoane to address the issue of the South African National Taxi Council's (SANTACO's) memo to President Mbeki on 23 May 2003, threatening to disrupt the process and leading to media claims that recapitalisation would not commence in June as envisaged.

Mr Makokoane said hat there had been some delays since the recapitalisation programme had been adopted in December. The programme of democratising the taxi industry had been successfully completed the previous year with the appointment of a democratically elected board. Government's next step was to address the new leadership about taxi recapitalisation. The SANTACO Board was unhappy with the way the programme and, particularly, the cash management system, was being handled. Government was concerned about this and other risk management issues. It was not only looking at the taxi industry, but also at the bus and rail transport industries. Funding needed to be confirmed and the Best and Final Offer (BAFO) document needed to be submitted to the six bidders concerned in order to ensure that Government's requirements were fulfilled. R4 billion had been budgeted for the programme.

An activity list had been drawn up so that stakeholders were aware of the steps needing to be taken in order to meet the intended implementation date. It had become clear that the first vehicles would not be on the ground by June. Also, the new vehicles would need to be tested to obtain South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) approval. The implications of infrastructural requirements for local government also had to be considered.

The steering committee also had to assess bidders for the Electronic Management System (EMS) and a technical task team had been established to assist in selecting the final bidders. Recommendations had been made to Cabinet in this regard.

Government was trying to address the SANTACO's concerns as far as possible. Both the Department of Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) wanted to sign a memorandum of understanding with SANTACO. The issues concerned included the role of SANTACO as partner/manager in the recapitalisation project, time frames and delays, exemption for sixteen-seaters under certain conditions, road show funding, the EMS process and subsidies. On 10 June 2003 Government had decided that political intervention was needed to fast-track the process and that a task team should be established to monitor progress. The Department of Transport and the DTI had met with SANTACO on 20 June 2003 to address SANTACO's concerns about the BAFO documents. On 24 June 2003, the Director General of the DTI had met with SANTACO and much progress had been made on the technical issues concerned. It had been agreed that Government would work more closely with SANTACO as the taxi recapitalisation process approached implementation phase.

Mr Windvoël said that Mr Makokoane's presentation had clarified a lot of issues. SANTACO's letter was emotional, but the Council's impatience was understandable. The Committee appreciated Government's firm stand on the issue. It was not acceptable that SANTACO wanted to be the main player and referee at the same time. The Department should give the Committee the activity list for the programme and the Committee should assist with the proposed road shows. Everybody, down to the last person at the most rural taxi rank, should receive the correct information so that people did not act on the basis of assumptions.

Rev M Chabaku (ANC, Free State) voiced concern about the issues underpinning SANTACO's situation. The Committee needed documentation about what had been said in recent meetings between Government and SANTACO.

The Chair said SANTACO should be made to feel that it was not being sidelined. SANTACO needed to be part of the process and would become suspicions if they did not know what was going on. The Committee also needed to know and fully understand the finer detail of the recapitalisation situation. When it returned from recess, the matter would be debated. A concerted effort would be made to inform the public about what was happening.

Mr P Moatshe (ANC, North West) asked for more information about subsidies.

The Chair mentioned that, in rural areas, people use bakkies for taxi transport instead of minibuses. Would sixteen-seaters will be phased out in these areas as well?

Mr Makokoane replied that a process had been embarked upon to amend the National Land Transport Transition Act (NLTTA). Consideration was being given to the varying needs of communities as far as mobility was concerned. In rural areas, like elsewhere, spatial settlement and volumes of people needed to be considered in order to understand what commercial vehicles (taxis, buses or trains) would be feasible in particular areas. Proposals about this would be brought before the Committee. The Ministers and the provinces still needed to look at these and other issues. In terms of subsidies, Government was moving away from sectoral subsidisation towards looking at public transport in totality. Information from Statistics SA would be used to make assessments. In the poorest communities minibus-taxis could be a more practical option than buses or trains. Statistics would be used to determine appropriate modes of transport and which routes and areas should be subsidised. Spatial and volume considerations will also help determine subsidy policy.

Mr Sipho Zikode, Director: Industrial Participation Secretariat of the DTI, said that the DTI was trying hard to speed up the process. Government's last meeting with SANTACO had been very fruitful and the coming days would see the drafting of a way forward. It was unlikely that there would be another incident like the memorandum to the President and the raising of issues in the media instead of with Government. When problems were encountered in future, SANTACO would come to Government and negotiate because it would be recognised as the country's official taxi body.

The meeting was adjourned.


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