Cape Town - 131111 - Mthuthuzeli Swartz of Metrorail, along with MEC Robin Carlisle and Brett Herron (pictured), laid charges at the Philippe Police Station against Chippa security guards for sabotaging the train service by cutting cables in different parts of the City after a dispute over pay increases. REPORTER: NEO MADITLA. PICTURE: CANDICE CHAPLIN.

Cape Town - Strict policing of the taxi industry by various spheres of the government is at the heart of the ongoing strife in the industry - and intense negotiations lie ahead.

On Tuesday, in response to the Cape Argus, the City of Cape Town said it hoped to negotiate with the industry to thrash out improved systems. But the authorities also warned they would stand firm on the need for taxis to abide by the law.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town, described two of the current causes of conflict in the industry. First was the taxi industry’s complaints around the increased value of fines for traffic offences.

Herron said that although taxi drivers had to obey the rules of the road, like every other driver, the taxi drivers’ employment conditions could be studied.

“The relationship between drivers and their employers needs to be fixed - using the tool of sectoral determination of their employment conditions. Some of taxi drivers’ law infringements could be due to fare-chasing. Many drivers have targets to meet, and only earn what they exceed those targets by. That reality certainly does contribute to taxi drivers’ driving patterns on the road.”

Herron hoped reviewed employment conditions would improve this situation.

The second cause of conflict was a “structural issue”. “The taxi industry’s second complaint is around impoundments, and the cost of release fees. Taxis are typically impounded for operating without an operating permit, of for being ‘off-route’.

“At present, taxi operators have to belong to a taxi association, and the city, as the planning authority, conducts surveys into supply and demand, when looking at granting operating permits for different routes.

“We don’t grant licences, yet - this is done by the province, but based on whether we support the application or not. We base our decision on the results of the supply/demand surveys. A ‘free market’ model - with no prescribed or restricted number of operating permits - would have its own problems, such as conflict and violent resolution of competition for business. Many of the problems over a long period, including murders, have been in connection with route invasions and over-trading.”

To find a solution, a “Taxi Working Group” had been set up, as part of the Land Transport Advisory Board , as prescribed by law. Herron hoped the city and the taxi industry could thrash out an improved model.

Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant said the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) - the mother body for all the taxi associations - had recently highlighted the following issues for discussion:

* Traffic Fines: questioning the increased traffic fines approved by the chief magistrate, which came into effect as of August 1, for virtually all fine categories.

* Impoundments: asking for law enforcement officers to apply proper consideration when impounding vehicles, and for the issue to be looked at by all role players.

* Admin Mark: claiming that the Admin Mark system, implemented in the Western Cape, is a serious hindrance on the taxi industry’s ability to run its business.

* Late Renewals: raising issues with how late renewals are handled, asking for a six-month extension on late renewals, and a special task team from the city and the Provincial Regulatory Entity to be established to fast-track applications for late renewals.

“At the meeting, the Department of Transport and Public Works maintained that its support for the fine increases, by the chief magistrate of the Western Cape, is based on the urgent need to improve commuter safety and compliance on our roads. These fines are not limited to public transport operators, but apply to all motorists in the Western Cape.

With regard to impoundments, it is widely accepted that route invasions, and other illicit practices within the taxi industry, cause conflict and have resulted in the loss of lives and the tarnishing of the image on the minibus-taxi industry.”

“The Admin Mark system is imposed, as per regulation 59(2) of the National Road Traffic Regulations, on persons who owe any penalties or fees in terms of the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act (93 of 1996). In such instances, an Admin Mark is captured against the ID numbers of vehicle owners in the eNatis system, effectively disallowing them from transacting on eNatis with the affected registering authority. This means vehicle owners with an Admin Mark against their name may be refused the application for the licencing of a motor vehicle or the issuing of a licence disc until such penalties and fees have been paid.”

“The matter of late renewals and the six-month extension on the 30 June 2014 deadline for late renewals being automatically supported, was discussed with all factors being considered.”

Grant condemned the illegal and violent strike action that has taken place over the past few days. “The Western Cape government has kept in close contact with the Santaco, the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies and is monitoring the situation. It is critical the perpetrators behind the violence are brought to justice immediately.”

Cape Argus