Durban mayor calls for taxi subsidy
Durban - eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has joined his Johannesburg and Tshwane counterparts calling for the national government to “effectively” subsidise the taxi industry.
In a joint statement that was part of the “The future is public transport” campaign, Kaunda, along with Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, Tshwane mayor Randall Williams and South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) called for the government to provide reliable and consistent operational subsidies to public transport networks to safeguard the health of passengers and drive economic recovery in the face of Covid-19.
The mayors stated while subsidies to the bus and train network presently existed, recent reports suggested they accounted for 23.6% and 9.9% of commuter transport, respectively.
This left over 65% of the taxi industry, that did not receive any support from the government.
The taxi owners defied government’s Covid-19 regulations to carry 70% capacity to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
“The minibus taxi industry, which is responsible for 66.5% of commuter travel, is said to provide an estimated 15 million commuters per day with public transport. Yet, the minibus taxi industry does not currently receive an operational subsidy only receiving 1% of total subsidies in the form of taxi recapitalisations,” said the joint statement.
This was while eThekwini Municipality was facing various challenges with its public transport which has proved to be difficult to resolve.
Currently, the municipality was in the process of establishing a public entity to operate its buses which were currently under controversial private operations.
The municipality was involved in a dispute with Tansnat Bus company over more than R600 million which allegedly stems from leasing charges and other unspecified charges the company is said to have incurred to the city.
The company, which has operated city buses for over 10 years, has been criticised by opposition parties for its poor record including running out of diesel with passengers on board.
Another of the City’s major public transport project, GO!Durban, was also facing challenges to get off the grounds despite its first phase of construction from Pinetown to KwaMashu being completed almost two years ago.
Taxi owners from Pinetown Taxi Association had vowed to halt the project until the municipality pays them compensation for their business that will be taken over by the buses.
Kaunda, while tabling the City’s draft budget for the 2021/ 2022 financial year, announced R675 million would be spent on transport projects, including the GO!Durban. However, the challenges facing the project have not been addressed.
Mluleki Mtungwa, Kaunda’s spokesperson, said the request was not necessarily for the city of Durban as Kaunda was also a co-chairperson of C40, a network of the world’s mega-cities committed to addressing climate change which Durban was part of.
He said Kaunda was representing several cities under C40 where government subsidy towards public transport was still lacking.
Mtungwa said the subsidisation of the taxi industry was one of the resolutions of the taxi indaba which took place last year, which the municipality may adopt.
When asked about challenges in public transport the city was facing, Mtungwa said the mayor had formed cordial relationships with Santaco leadership to address GO!Durban issues.
“The project is progressing very well and there is an action plan that has been developed. The differences between the city and taxi association have been addressed and reached an agreement which I may not be divulged at this stage. They meet frequently with all the stakeholders they project should be ready to get off the ground in the coming months,” said Mtungwa.
The establishment of the bus entity was still sub-judice, said Mtungwa.
Solomon Mahlangu, Satawu national spokesperson, said to keep the air clean and prioritise the health of city residents, the national government must provide a subsidy to make our public transport safe, sustainable and resilient to future crises.