Basil Nagel writes about how it was satisfying for him to hear Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith voice his opinion so strongly about the National Land Transport Act in a recent interview. Picture: CoCT/Supplied
Basil Nagel writes about how it was satisfying for him to hear Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith voice his opinion so strongly about the National Land Transport Act in a recent interview. Picture: CoCT/Supplied

JP Smith, who does a taxi war actually benefit?

By Opinion Time of article published Aug 3, 2021

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by Basil Nagel

JP Smith, are you admitting that the taxi association model and the inclusion of taxi mother bodies have created a gatekeeper mentality that is perpetuated by their (the associations and mother bodies) endorsement in the National Land Transport Act (NLTA) of 2009? Your recent eNCA interview refers.

It is most shocking… and most satisfying for me to hear you voice your opinion so strongly about the NLTA and that you appear very frustrated that it has failed. Are you the one official who now recognises what the industry has been saying for years: that the NLTA is severely flawed?

I have fought tooth and nail for decades to get the City of Cape Town (CoCT), the Western Cape provincial transport authorities and the national government to admit to their flawed legislation that has catapulted the public transport sector into chaos. You managed to do so in a single eNCA interview.

JP Smith, you have opened a door that cannot be closed.

It’s time for some hard truths to be set free.

The CoCT, the Western Cape provincial government and the national government need to own up to their part in perpetuating the notion that they don’t have blood on their hands.

The Western Cape transport authorities must speak publicly about their cosy relationships with the warring parties, so much so that they thought nothing of putting the very taxi associations and mother bodies caught up in this bloody battle smack bang in the middle of routes already assigned to legitimate operators.

They knew full well what would happen. Would any of the spheres of government like admit to their mistakes?

We opposed the removal of the radius system. We opposed the association model. We opposed the NLTTA (2007) and the NLTA. We rejected the MyCiTi model for several reasons. We opposed the subsidised bus system. Yet all of these went ahead. Mr Smith, I have been fighting these battles since the Welgemoed Commission.

Every couple of years, a new minster, a new premier or even a Transport Minister or two, dusts off the recommendations of the Cabinet-approved National Taxi Task Team (1996) and it becomes my duty to point out that a taxi indaba and another flawed attempt at a co-operative is not the answer. They don’t know what they are doing, and they do not have the skills to execute a public transport plan. There is a long paper trail of the ineffectiveness of the national, provincial and CoCT transport departments.

I have 50 years’ experience on the ground in the taxi industry, Mr Smith. That’s more experience than the provincial MEC for Transport, the CoCT’s Acting Mayco Member for Transport, and the national Minister of Transport combined.

Do you know when the fighting stops, JP Smith? When the truth comes out when the criminal elements and the puppet masters are exposed. For now, we suffer the consequences until somebody cleans house.

Keep in mind, Mr Smith, that flawed legislation is a government responsibility; poor law enforcement is a government responsibility; mismanagement of public transport is a government responsibility. It has nothing to do with how taxis operate on the road. Despite a foot on the neck of the industry since its dawn, the industry continues to flourish. So who has failed the public and why?

I abhor and reject violence, but I won't stand for passing the buck either. I think at some level, Mr Smith, we have all had it up to the neck with lies, corruption and puppeteers. Perhaps you need to lead the way in not only removing the criminals on the road, but also starting to look inward and pull them out from behind the desk.

If you are going to tackle flawed legislation, I am with you. You are welcome to this battle that on the surface looks like a turf war, but I would be shocked if that’s what you believed.

I do not doubt that the instigators of this running battle between associations will be caught out, but it will soon start up again because of weak links in your transport authority across government.

Let’s be honest: what hasn’t the government broken at this stage?

Mr Smith, if we want to be honest, we must ask why so many pirate operators end up on our streets and how impounded vehicles end up trading once more. Who is handing out permits like it’s Christmas? Last I checked, that’s a government function.

And perhaps a message to MEC Daylin Mitchell. A section no. 91 is nothing more than a last resort, but history will tell you that it’s also a mechanism to open the door for buses to trade on taxi routes. It’s part and parcel of that legislation that stops black businesses from trading so that bus companies can start collecting fares from markets created by the taxi industry.

Even Albert Fritz, as acting DA leader in the Western Cape, unintentionally let the cat out of the bag while shouting about the actions he will be taking when tackling the thugs and criminals of public transport.

And if you want to make a dent, Mr Smith, how exactly does an unregistered, unpermitted taxi operator receive vehicle finance from a financial institution?

Minibus taxis are manufactured and sold straight off the conveyor belt into the taxi industry, whether through recapitalisation or new entrants. There is a never-ending demand for taxis, Mr Smith, yet “overtrading” is a term used commonly in our industry.

Just how high up are you willing to investigate, Mr Smith?

JP Smith, I will echo your sentiment that associations and mother bodies are devices used to create exactly what we see on the streets today. The art of war is never subtle, Mr Smith, and misdirection is a key component of keeping the ambitious minibus taxi industry from sniffing around the economic opportunities of their supply chain.

The distraction of this bloody war is a façade that I hope you will get to the bottom of, but it only stops when law enforcement, the justice department and the Department of Transport get their affairs in order.

Who does a taxi war benefit, Mr Smith?

[Smith’s response to the follow piece can be read here: Taxi Violence: The problem does sit with the National Land Transportation Act, says JP Smith ]

* Basil Nagel is director at Taxinomics Group.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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