Minibus taxi group must retract threat of strike action
Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
The Western Cape Government has been informed by concerned taxi operators and the SAPS’s Crime Intelligence Division, that the self-styled Minibus Taxi Industry Task Team (‘Task Team’), which has been involved in a legal dispute with the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), has once again threatened to ‘withdraw services’ of minibus taxis with effect from Monday 6 August 2018.
This is the same group that organised a ‘taxi strike’ on Monday 18 September 2017, which resulted in injuries to innocent commuters and millions of Rands of damage to property, including the burning of 3 buses and several private vehicles.
The Western Cape Government is duty-bound to inform the public of the threatened action by this disgruntled group and to provide the facts behind their planned actions:
- At the request of this ‘Task Team’ my Department and I facilitated a mediation process, led by retired SCA Judge, Ian Farlam, to resolve the dispute between the Task Team and the current executive of the provincial taxi council over internal constitutional processes that must be followed in the election of new leadership.
- Judge Farlam delivered a legal opinion that provided the necessary clarity on the issues raised and both parties agreed that the mediation process was conducted freely and fairly.
- The Task Team nonetheless took the Judge’s recommendations to the Western Cape High Court to obtain a declaratory order which was delivered on the 6th of June 2018.
- In compliance with the court order, the national executive of Santaco announced the dates for regional and provincial council elections as well as the date for a taxi industry ‘indaba’ to set out and agree on issues that are not clear in the constitution and the process to be followed in the forthcoming elections.
- In order to ensure full compliance with the court order, my Department and I, at the request of both Santaco and the Task Team requested Judge Farlam to advise all parties on the correct interpretation of the judgment and its effect on planning for the taxi industry indaba and the elections.
- On Monday, 30 July 2018, I met with the President of Santaco, Mr Phillip Taaibosch and members of his national executive, to confirm our joint commitment to support free and fair elections in the interest of peace and stability in the Western Cape taxi industry.
- At the request of the Task Team, I had also requested Santaco National to meet with both groups to convey Judge Farlam’s advice and guidance on the election process and clarifying the discrepancies between the National and Provincial Santaco Constitutions.
- Despite the court order and all of the above interventions and support provided by my department and Santaco National, the Task Team has now threatened to withdraw taxi services unless their demands are met.
It is necessary for me to respond to the stated demands of the ‘Task Team’ and address some of the claims that were made in communications to associations:
- Issue: The constant rise of petrol prices and that the industry in not being subsidised.
Response: While it is true that the constant rise of petrol prices affects the taxi industry, it is outside of the control of my department and impacts on all sectors.The industry is in fact directly and indirectly subsidised through the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and negotiated contracts where they form part of the vehicle operating companies.
- Issue: The placing of administration marks on converted panel vans used for conveyance of passengers, thus preventing owners from obtaining licences.
Response: The National Department of Transport issued a directive that panel vans that were illegally converted to passenger carrying-vehicles may not be issued with operating licences.My department and I cannot support any demand for unsafe vehicles to carry passengers.
- Issue: “The constant violence in the taxi industry due to route invasions and government’s lack of proper law enforcement”.
Response:While the ‘Task Team’ bemoans the constant violence in the industry; attributing it to route invasion and a lack of proper enforcement, it fails to point to the industry’s ongoing recruiting of illegal operators on already overtraded routes as the root cause of taxi violence.This results in fierce competition for passengers, regression in vehicle standards, route invasions and concomitant violent conflict as well as increasing reckless and lawless behaviour on our roads.
- Issue: Demand for a pre-elective conference.
Response: On 20 July 2018, the Secretary General of Santaco National, Mr RS Lentsoane, announced that a ‘pre-elections special conference’ will be held on 6 August 2018. On Tuesday, 31 July 2018, Santaco National attempted to inform the Task Team of what was to be called a ‘taxi industry indaba’ to be held on Monday, 6 August 2018.It is disappointing that the Task Team opted to walk out of this meeting.
- Issue: Pre-elective conference v ‘Indaba’
Response: The Task Team’s insistence on calling a ‘pre-elective conference’, to drive their own agenda, ignores the concluding remarks and advice in the High Court Judgment as well as the advice of Judge Farlam on the format and agenda for such an ‘indaba’.
- Issue: Suspended members
Response: The suspension of the two members was considered by Judge Farlam, who gave advice on legal remedies available to the affected individuals, but which advice was not acceptable to the ‘Task Team’.
My officials and I have gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate an amicable resolution to the protracted battle between the parties and the ‘Task Team’s’ threat to withdraw services goes against the spirit of the mediation process.
The Provincial Taxi Registrar has addressed a letter to all taxi associations requesting them to refrain from withdrawing their services, intimidating other operators and damaging vehicles and property. Any violation of the Code of Conduct for minibus-taxi operators and/or operating licence conditions may result in the deregistration of the association and the withdrawal of operating licences.
In order to ensure the safety of the commuting public, the Department in partnership with law enforcement authorities will monitor the situation in the event of a strike and we will use available technology to identify offending operators and associations who violate the rule of law.
I remain willing to engage with the industry to resolve disputes within the parameters of the law. However, I cannot condone any actions that will be to the detriment of the citizens and economy of the Western Cape.