Taxi operators reject Polokwane bus project
Pretoria - Disgruntled taxi operators in Polokwane, Limpopo, have vowed to disrupt the integrated public transport system which is set to be launched in June this year.
They were speaking after Polokwane mayor Thembi Nkadimeng yesterday hosted the chiefs of Leeto La Polokwane, the municipality bus system that will ferry passengers throughout the city on a low-cost trial run.
The taxi bosses say the municipality failed to consult and involve most of them when it launched the consultative programme in 2013.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, a taxi tycoon who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, but who owns taxis that ply the Polokwane to Seshego route, warned that if the municipality continued with the project there would be violence and unrest in the City’s transport system.
“They need to think twice about what they are doing. The municipality has the audacity to choose a few taxis and a few drivers to join Leeto La Polokwane while they are taking customers away from us. What about the rest of us?” asked the taxi boss, who represented a group of taxi owners.
“From the start we have not been against this project, but we feel we were not involved in the choosing of who should submit their names and taxis to be absorbed into Leeto La Polokwane. So we will never let these buses start working because they will be taking bread out of our mouths.”
The project is supported by the national Department of Transport.
At least 13 municipalities, including Polokwane, the City of Joburg and Tshwane, have benefited from the programme and have fully-fledged rapid bus transit systems.
Leeto La Polokwane is equivalent to Rea Vaya in Johannesburg and A Re Yeng in Tshwane.
In Polokwane, the municipality partnered with the three affected taxi associations who have since formed a company which will operate the bus service on behalf of the City.
They are the Seshego Polokwane Taxi Association, Flora Park Polokwane Taxi Association and Westernberg Taxi Association. They all surrendered some of their taxis to the municipality in order to get compensation and to kick-start the bus service.
Chairperson of the operating company, Solly Ledwaba, said: “This negotiation process started in 2013 with extensive engagement processes with the municipality.
“Our philosophy is that this system is important for the growth of the industry. We all signed a memorandum of agreement which acknowledges that not everyone will be on board as this would be achieved by an incremental approach. We just have to develop a way of how to include those who were left out.”
However, the disgruntled taxi bosses rubbished Ledwaba’s statement, accusing him of receiving money from politicians.
They said: “Don’t tell us about those people. They have been receiving left-overs from politicians and we get nothing. They need to look at us as human beings and treat us fairly.”
Speaking at the trial run yesterday, Nkadimeng said: “We all know there are challenges in the taxi industry. Some are taxi drivers and owners who are not part of the taxi associations, some have parallel associations. At the end of the day we are trying to say the system is conforming to the parameters of the transport department.”