Two buses were torched in Khayelitsha. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - The Western Cape government has called on the Mini-bus Taxi Industry Task Team (MTITT) to withdraw its strike action with immediate effect. 

Transport MEC for the Western Cape, Donald Grant, said he was addressing the concerns raised by the MTITT, and its grievances against the national taxi association umbrella body, Santaco (South African National Taxi Council).

"The Western Cape Government is duty-bound to inform the public of the threatened action by this disgruntled group and to provide the facts behind their planned actions:

* At the request of this ‘Task Team’ my Department and I facilitated a mediation process, led by retired SCA Judge, Ian Farlam, to resolve the dispute between the Task Team and the current executive of the provincial taxi council over internal constitutional processes that must be followed in the election of new leadership.

* Judge Farlam delivered a legal opinion that provided the necessary clarity on the issues raised and both parties agreed that the mediation process was conducted freely and fairly.

* The Task Team nonetheless took the Judge’s recommendations to the Western Cape High Court to obtain a declaratory order which was delivered on the 6th of June 2018.

* In compliance with the court order, the national executive of Santaco announced the dates for regional and provincial council elections as well as the date for a taxi industry ‘indaba’ to set out and agree on issues that are not clear in the constitution and the process to be followed in the forthcoming elections.

* In order to ensure full compliance with the court order, my Department and I, at the request of both Santaco and the Task Team requested Judge Farlam to advise all parties on the correct interpretation of the judgment and its effect on planning for the taxi industry indaba and the elections.

* On Monday, 30 July 2018, I met with the President of Santaco, Mr Phillip Taaibosch and members of his national executive, to confirm our joint commitment to support free and fair elections in the interest of peace and stability in the Western Cape taxi industry.

* At the request of the Task Team, I had also requested Santaco National to meet with both groups to convey Judge Farlam’s advice and guidance on the election process and clarifying the discrepancies between the National and Provincial Santaco Constitutions.

* Despite the court order and all of the above interventions and support provided by my department and Santaco National, the Task Team has now threatened to withdraw taxi services unless their demands are met," Grant said. 

Western Cape Trasnsport MEC Donald Grant. Picture: Thomas Holder

He continued: "It is necessary for me to respond to the stated demands of the ‘Task Team’ and address some of the claims that were made in communications to associations:

1.    Issue: The constant rise of petrol prices and that the industry in not being subsidised.

Response: While it is true that the constant rise of petrol prices affects the taxi industry, it is outside of the control of my department and impacts on all sectors.  The industry is in fact directly and indirectly subsidised through the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and negotiated contracts where they form part of the vehicle operating companies.

2.    Issue:  The placing of administration marks on converted panel vans used for conveyance of passengers, thus preventing owners from obtaining licences.

Response: The National Department of Transport issued a directive that panel vans that were illegally converted to passenger carrying-vehicles may not be issued with operating licences.  My department and I cannot support any demand for unsafe vehicles to carry passengers.

3.    Issue: “The constant violence in the taxi industry due to route invasions and government’s lack of proper law enforcement”.

Response:  While the ‘Task Team’ bemoans the constant violence in the industry; attributing it to route invasion and a lack of proper enforcement, it fails to point to the industry’s ongoing recruiting of illegal operators on already overtraded routes as the root cause of taxi violence.  This results in fierce competition for passengers, regression in vehicle standards, route invasions and concomitant violent conflict as well as increasing reckless and lawless behaviour on our roads. 

4.    Issue: Demand for a pre-elective conference.

Response: On 20 July 2018, the Secretary General of Santaco National, Mr RS Lentsoane, announced that a ‘pre-elections special conference’ will be held on 6 August 2018. On Tuesday, 31 July 2018, Santaco National attempted to inform the Task Team of what was to be called a ‘taxi industry indaba’ to be held on Monday, 6 August 2018.  It is disappointing that the Task Team opted to walk out of this meeting.

5.    Issue: Pre-elective conference v ‘Indaba’

Response: The Task Team’s insistence on calling a ‘pre-elective conference’, to drive their own agenda, ignores the concluding remarks and advice in the High Court Judgment as well as the advice of Judge Farlam on the format and agenda for such an ‘indaba’.  

6.    Issue: Suspended members

Response: The suspension of the two members was considered by Judge Farlam, who gave advice on legal remedies available to the affected individuals, but which advice was not acceptable to the ‘Task Team’.  

"My officials and I have gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate an amicable resolution to the protracted battle between the parties and the ‘Task Team’s’ threat to withdraw services goes against the spirit of the mediation process," Grant said. 

Grant said law enforcement and other authorities would continue to monitor the situation and that he was willing to engage with all parties "within the parameters of the law" and would not condone violence or "any actions that will be to the detriment of the citizens and economy of the Western Cape", he said.

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Cape Argus