SUPPORT: Transport MEC Ismail Vadi says drivers are willing to be compliant. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso / Independent Media.

Johannesburg - Thousands of Gauteng taxi operators are finally getting legalised after a recent government campaign to clean up the licensing system.

The backlog of applications for licences has swamped the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport since 2011.

“People want to be compliant,” said MEC Ismail Vadi.

“They work hard and they earn an honest living. Sometimes the government has been not supportive enough,” he said.

The Gauteng National Taxi Alliance (GNTA) welcomed the campaign, saying it was the way to go.

“We do support and appreciate their move. This is what we were seeking for the past 15 to 20 years,” said GNTA chairman Piet Mahlangu.

He added: “Yes, things have really changed in Gauteng.”

Vadi said that 4209 taxi operators attended the department’s recent Ntirhisano Taxi Outreach Programme, where they were helped with outstanding applications.

These were the results:

- 199 operating licences were issued on site during the Ntirhisano meetings.

- 224 applications for licences were referred to the provincial regulatory entity.

- 979 applications are being processed.

- 1248 applications were referred to municipalities for checking.

- 122 applications were rejected due to false documents.

- 96 applications were incomplete so couldn’t be processed.

- 909 more taxi operators who went to the meetings but didn’t finalise applications would be helped later this month.

Fantastic Response

“Over 2000 people were directly assisted in one way or the other. There was a fantastic response,” said Vadi.

Another round is planned for October. Operators must licence each taxi, with a licence that lasts seven years.

Vadi said there were about 35 000 legally-issued taxi licences in Gauteng and possibly about 15 000 illegally-operating taxis without permits.

There is also a massive backlog in converting the old taxi permits to taxi-operating licences. This was not addressed during Ntirhisano.

When applying for a licence, an operator must produce registration papers and a roadworthy certificate for the vehicle, confirmation of the operator’s tax compliance, a letter of support from a taxi association and R300 in application fees.

Red tape and backlogs

Backlogs have also been affected by municipal red-tape, but Vadi said there was now better co-operation with municipalities.

Joburg had an unofficial moratorium on taxi licences for several years, building up a backlog of about 1000 applications.

The Ntirhisano outreach set up temporary sites which included officials from Vadi’s department, together with Sars and municipal officials, to streamline the process.

“Face-to-face interactions with taxi operators have built greater trust between them and government. Many thought it was an election ploy, but they were very surprised by the amount of work the government officials have put into the process,” said Vadi.

A recent summit between Vadi’s department, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the GNTA resulted in a joint declaration committing them all to further co-operation and support for establishing a Gauteng Transport Authority.

While Vadi acknowledged that access to licences and battles over routes could be contributing factors in taxi violence, he felt inter- and intra-organisational power struggles were bigger factors.

For example, in Lawley in Joburg, there have been about 15 industry-related deaths in two years, but Vadi said there were only about 100 taxis there which didn’t swamp the routes.

The Star

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