Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

LETTER: Taxi industry must go down road of creating generational wealth

By Basil Nagel Time of article published Jul 1, 2020

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There’s been a Cabinet-approved plan on the table for the minibus taxi industry since 1996 gathering dust. A plan that spoke to the independence of the industry, spoke to its commercial ambitions and makes provision for training and skills development projects for industry participants.

So, while this plan has been sitting on a shelf for 24 years, the industry does this back and forth with government year-in-and-year-out about subsidies, about what is due to them and government responds with the usual, “you’re not regulated, your informal, you’re not good enough”.

Years of time wasting when the answer lies within the minibus taxi industry. You control your fuel purchases and fare collection - and whether government likes it or not, you control public transport.

The taxi industry should outright reject any offer from the government. Do not take a cent. Your point of negotiating is access, acceptance, recognition and commitment. Government does not have the capacity nor inclination to drive a public transport agenda that is truly inclusive of the industry.

This industry has been challenged since its inception. It should come as no surprise that even when faced with a pandemic, even in a crisis with no public transport solution in place, government considers you unreasonable, but demands you to put in the work, despite dangerous work conditions, despite a complete reliance on your services and then chooses to discredit you and undervalue your services. What other industry puts up with this type of agenda?

If the taxi industry wants truth, then look internally first. You have the money, the means and the numbers not only to execute on a commercial agenda, but also execute your role as the primary public transport provider in South Africa. Why are you not pursuing every opportunity to make it work?

Stop the politics inside and outside of this industry and pursue commercial development, pursue chain supply development, pursue service standards for the millions of commuters that you serve daily. Are you aware that everywhere you choose to operate, you leave behind a footprint in the form of indirectly creating economic zones in even the most remote and economically challenged neighbourhoods?

The taxi industry is a trailblazer in creating entrepreneurs, stimulating local economies and feeding big business their profits (while being excluded from ownership or shareholding). Is there any reason why you think you need to have your hand-out for a once-off subsidy, that will be distributed and spent in less than 30 days? Where is the value in that?

You have two options; reject any-and-all offers for subsidy and start your internal journey on building wealth at grassroots level or accept what is coming your way from government and invest in yourself.

Any subsidy offer must be the starting point of your own bank, your own fuel depot and your own fleet management programmes for the benefit of operators, taxi drivers on the ground, and for the benefit of commuters, your bread and butter.

Industry leaders should know better by now, this will divide us further. You have a choice to make; more division; or start the process of creating generational wealth at grassroots level. You choose.

* Basil Nagel, Taxi operator, Kenilworth.

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

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