Taxi Recapitalisation Programme: Progress Report by Department, SANTACO & National Scrapping Agency; International Maritime Conv

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20 February 2008
Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department gave a comprehensive update on the Taxi Recapitalisation Project. The approach had been revised in that there would be no tender process but all vehicle manufacturers would be allowed to compete fairly and manufacture the taxi vehicles according to government regulations and the vehicles would require South African Bureau of Standards certification. There was now a fixed scrapping allowance and the introduction of branding and colour coding for New Taxi Vehicles. The presentation looked at all the safety specifications, a provincial breakdown of taxi age analysis and conversion statistics and a summary of the scrapping administration process. The Department also tabled its challenges, interventions and scrapping targets for the 2008/09 financial year. The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) and the National Taxi Scrapping Agency (TSA) participated in the discussions.

Members raised concerns about the Operating Licensing Boards, overloading, law enforcement and the scrapping sites. Equally, the Committee scrutinised the training of taxi drivers, the KZN Taxi Alliance and the role of civil society. The Chairperson commented that he was a lot more reassured, than he was before the briefing, about the entire project. He recognised that there were signs of progress

The Committee adopted the Convention on Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships and also the 1991 FAL Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organisation.

Meeting report


Taxi Recapitalisation Programme (TRP) briefing by the Department of Transport
Ms Mpumi Mpofu (Director-General: DoT) explained that the TRP was aimed at replacing the current ageing fleet, which constituted the bulk of the taxi industry, with new vehicles that were safe and reliable. The programme also sought to ensure the sustainability of the industry as a business, as well as ensure its formalisation and effective regulation. The original TRP tender process had been terminated due to the un-affordability of the vehicles. All vehicle manufacturers would now be allowed to compete fairly and manufacture the taxi vehicles according to specifications laid down in government regulations. The original TRP tender process described the seating capacity of the NTVs and adopted a flexible approach regarding the scrapping allowance offered to taxi operators. However, the revised approach focused on the development of specific safety specifications and set a cap on the scrapping allowance. In addition, the new process specified that the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) certification should be in line with the safety specifications, which would now be published in the form of Regulations in the Government Gazette. Finally, the new plan created a Taxi Scrapping Agency (TSA), which was tasked with scrapping the Old Taxi Vehicles (OTVs) on behalf of Government.

Ms Mpofu presented a full list of all the safety specifications for the NTVs (see presentation). New features included the removal of jockey seats, the introduction of rollover bars and the new colour coding specifications. Further safety specifications, such as anti-tyre burst stabilisers and the tamper-proof speed governors would be added to the registry. Manufacturers were required to submit their vehicles to the SABS for certification as TRP compliant vehicles.

Further, Ms Mpofu summarised the entire scrapping administration process (see presentation), and explained what interventions would take place if there were problems at any of the steps. TSAs were established in all the major towns and cities, while mobile scrapping facilities serviced the remote areas. Statistics revealed that the North West and the Eastern Cape were ahead of all the other provinces when it came to scrapping. Critically, the data did not consider practical realities, such as which province started the process first, the proximity of the Agency to the operators and the variance in fleet sizes (between the provinces). With the aid of diagrams, Ms Mpofu highlighted the age profile of registered vehicles in the different provinces. This analysis was used to predict how many vehicles were unroadworthy and unsafe. This information also informed how TSA targeted and prioritised vehicles for scrapping. In summary, older vehicles were scrapped first.
Ms Mpofu explained that the KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance had contested the deadline for conversion of permits in the Durban High Court. The Court ruled in their favour and contended that “the Minister did not comply with the National Land Transport Transition Act (NLTTA) in determining the cut-off date as he did”. This judgement impacted on the scrapping process and on the funding constraints. Additionally, Ms Mpofu outlined the progress of the different provinces regarding conversion. In her estimation, the statistics proved that the majority of provinces had “turned the tide” and showed significant improvement. She acknowledged that TRP continued to be beset by challenges such as funding, internal capacity, law enforcement, limited scrapping sites and many other matters. The Department had identified various interventions to help overcome these problems. One such intervention was aimed at strengthening law enforcement. Government had committed significant funds to increase its capacity to enforce public transport laws.

Finally, Ms Mpofu addressed the role of the taxi industry for the 2010 World Cup, the scrapping targets for the 2008/09 financial year and the TRP viability model.

Mr S Farrow (DA) praised the Department for presenting a comprehensive report. He asked the Department to expand on its law enforcement strategy and whether overloading impacted on safety.

Ms Mpofu replied that R2.2 billion had been allocated for law enforcement, compliance and other elements. Initially, the Department “concentrated on scrapping without focusing equally on the law enforcement aspect”. Now that the scrapping phase was properly established, focus would shift to law enforcement. Law enforcers needed to be sensitised and trained on the implementation of TRP.

Ms Mpofu admitted that overloading was a challenge and promised that the Department would investigate its impact on safety. This particular challenge was less of an issue on commuter routes and more so on long distance routes. Accordingly, the Department would explore whether to prescribe how to deal with the latter.

Mr Farrow complained that the Committee was uninformed about the status of the Electronic Management System (EMS). In addition he noticed that the presentation illustrated how many vehicles were scrapped but did not mention what this was benchmarked against. Finally, he commented that the Committee had “endless nightmares” about the Operating Licence Boards (OLBs) and asked how the Department made them compliant.

Mr Kuben Pillay, Acting Deputy Director-General: Public Transport, DoT, explained that the EMS system comprised of various facets. The system developed norms and standards applicable to all three modes of transport: bus, taxi and rail. This was to ensure interoperability and consistency with the Department’s integrated transport strategy. On the issue of benchmarking, Mr Pillay estimated that there were 116 000 vehicles that qualified for scrapping.

On OLBs, Ms Mpofu indicated that the Department had created a Forum of Chairpersons for this structure. The chairperson of the forum, who was employed in the Department, was specifically responsible for driving the operation of OLBs and ensuring that they complied with certain standards.

Ms N Khonou (ANC) remarked that she did not understand all the acronyms used in the presentation. She advised the presenter to explain all acronyms in future engagements with the Committee. She voiced concern about the general behaviour and attitude of taxi drivers, particularly in view of 2010. She argued that they would embarrass the country and were in desperate need of training. She appealed to SANTACO to “take back this message” to their constituency. Lastly, she reasoned that in the same way as domestic workers, taxi drivers were entitled to a minimum wage.

Ms Mpofu explained that she used acronyms to make the presentation simpler. Nevertheless, she gave an assurance that she would accede to the Member’s request in future.

Mr B Mashile (ANC) requested the Department to integrate the two graphs in the report dealing with age profile and conversion statistics. He motivated that this would assist the Committee in getting a clearer understanding of the state of affairs. Additionally, he queried how the notion “Business Unusual”, which was coined by the President, impacted on TRP.

Ms Mpofu announced that the Department’s intervention would be line with the Apex strategy of improving service delivery. The Department would be judged on its ability to reduce queues, process licences and any of its other responsibilities.

Mr Mashile wondered whether civil society played any monitoring role in the scrapping of the vehicles. He believed that it was incorrect to target only older vehicles because many new vehicles were unsafe and unroadworthy due to the poor quality of roads, particularly in rural areas.

Ms Mpofu replied that the public’s participation was limited to reporting unroadworthy and unsafe taxis to the authorities. She agreed that road conditions should be factored into the age analysis of vehicles.

Ms N Mbombo (ANC) asked if the Department offered any training for taxi drivers.

Mr A J Mthembu, President of SANTACO, claimed that there was a missing link between the Department’s plan and its implementation. Despite all the challenges, he remained satisfied that there was some level of progress. In addition, he claimed that the TRP would not do justice if it focused only on vehicles and not equally on the mindset of taxi operators. For its part, SANTACO had arranged with private sector partners to train its members and improve their standard of service.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) referred SANTACO to that week’s newspaper reports about the molestation and assault of miniskirt-wearing women at a taxi rank by taxi drivers. She believed that these humiliating incidents, where women wearing minifskirts were verbally abused, beaten, stripped naked and paraded in front of commuters, were on the increase. She appealed to SANTACO to instruct is members to cease such behaviour. Lastly, she urged the Department to accelerate the scrapping of taxis and the training of taxi drivers.

The Chairperson commented that their actions went far beyond just insisting on a dress code. They even stripped the women. He described the whole episode as despicable and unacceptable.

Mr Mthembu condemned such behaviour in the strongest terms and said that the organisation’s secretary general was investigating the matter.

Mr Philip Taaibosch, Secretary General of SANTACO, reiterated the disgust expressed by his colleague. He confirmed that he was investigating the matter and had already taken steps to make sure that the matter was reported to the police. He asserted that the culprits would not be allowed to operate in the taxi industry. Lastly, he apologised to all the women of South Africa, in particular and to the country in general.

This declaration elicited applause from the Committee.

Mr O Mogale (ANC) asked how long it took for the allowances to be paid to the taxi operator. He wondered if there was any price fixing that resulted in the inflation of prices (of taxis).

Mr Makhensa Mabunda, Chief Financial Officer, TSA, stated that the Agency activated payments within two weeks of the receipt of a correct and complete application form. Without going into detail, he stated that this lapse (of two weeks) was as a result of delays.

The Chairperson countered that while there were understandable reasons for the delay, the Department had made a commitment that payments should be activated within 72 hours.

Ms Mpofu replied that SANTACO would be the appropriate institution to respond whether its members experienced overpricing from manufacturers. In her view, the taxi operators should “vote with their feet” and let market forces dictate the price.

A member of the Committee maintained that the pace of scrapping was too slow.

Mr Mogale questioned why the KZN Taxi Alliance was in perpetual conflict with the Department. Secondly, he asked about the challenges of the scrapping sites.

Ms Mpofu responded that the KZN Taxi Alliance was very active and that the tension emanated from their disagreements with the KZN Provincial Department of Transport, which was strong on enforcement.

Mr Mabunda confirmed that there were scrapping sites in all the major cities around the country. Unfortunately, TSA was confronted with cross-border issues and problems relating to distance. To its credit, the organisation made an effort to overcome these setbacks and service all areas.

Ms Khunou recommended that the Committee should visit some of the scrapping sites to see what work they actually did.

The Chairperson commented that he was a lot more reassured, than he was before the briefing, about the entire project. He recognised that there were signs of progress.

Ms Mpofu thanked the Committee for allowing the Department to update them on TRP. She looked forward to further robust and comprehensive discussion on this matter.

The Committee approved the ratification of the International Convention on Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships and also the 1991 FAL Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organisation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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