Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is sending about 100 minibus taxi drivers for training - at R29 200 a person - so they will be able to operate on the new MyCiTi bus route in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
And those drivers who don’t qualify for the bus training because they don’t have Grade 10 will go on Adult Basic Education Training, also at the city’s expense.
Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday with leaders of the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) affected by the new service, mayor Patricia de Lille said previous minibus taxi employees would get preferential employment opportunities with the MyCiTi service.
The drivers would go to the Golden Arrow Bus Service Learning and Assessment Centre in Montana to upgrade their licences from Code 10 to 11 so that they would be able to drive the MyCiTi buses.
“All of the trainees will be offered employment as MyCiTi bus drivers once they have passed a diagnostic assessment, learner’s test, driver’s licence test, and route and product training,” De Lille said.
Siwe Coka, who facilitated discussions between the city and the taxi associations, said the investment in the training of taxi drivers was significant. “It means that after three years, whoever was part of the N2 project will be empowered.”
The cost of MyCiTi construction projects in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha is about R40 million.
De Lille said it was important to note this was a top-up service that would be rolled out in two phases. The taxis and the Golden Arrow bus service continue to run alongside the MyCiTi service. The first phase of the N2 Expressway, delayed by almost six months, will be rolled out on July 5. The second phase will be launched by the end of the year.
Commuters using the Khayelitsha route to the city centre will have seven sets of stops on the north and south-bound sides.
There will be a fleet of 40 buses, including the 12m low-floor buses that make it easier for disabled passengers to use the service.
The 18m buses will arrive later in the year for the second route, adding 10 stops to the service.
De Lille made an impassioned plea to the taxi associations to meet her if there were any concerns about the service. “This is just the beginning. We’ve all worked too hard for anything to go wrong.”
The three main operators for this express service are Golden Arrow Bus Services, Route 6 Taxi Association for Mitchells Plain and Codeta, which operates mainly from Khayelitsha.
The launch of the route, scheduled for last December, was delayed by protracted negotiations with the taxi industry. An eight-week strike in the motor vehicle industry delayed the buses, as well as the construction of the stations and stops.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, said there had been extensive consultations with taxi owners and associations.
However, some taxi drivers who were gathered at the Kuwait taxi rank in Khayelitsha on Wednesday said they were surprised to see a MyCiTi bus parked at the rank. The men, who declined to be named, told the Cape Argus they had not been told about the MyCiTi plans. They said they needed answers about whether they would lose their routes to the city’s service.
Codeta’s general secretary, Andile Kanyi, said the association’s negotiations with the city “had been positive”. He said: “We understand that we are going forward with the city.”
The ANC’s chief whip in the city, Xolani Sotashe, cautioned that the city’s “mafia-style” approach to negotiations with the taxi industry and affected businesses in the area would come back to haunt it. The N2 Express roll-out would “go the same way as it did in Dunoon”, where taxi operators were unhappy about their loss of income and route dominance.