Provincial Regulatory Entity sends out strong message to the taxi industry
The Western Cape Provincial Regulatory Entity (PRE) today (9 September 2016) released its decision in respect of the section 79 inquiry that took place in Oudtshoorn. The inquiry dealt with the violent protest action that took place in George on 19 August 2015, during which roads were barricaded, road infrastructure damaged and Go George buses set alight. CCTV footage and police reports were used to identify vehicles used during the illegal protest action and affected operators were charged with violating the conditions of their operating licences and the Code of Conduct for minibus-taxi operators.
The respondents are all members of UNCEDO George Taxi Association. In total 32 operators appeared before the Tribunal and 40 operating licences were cited as part of the inquiry. The complainant in this matter was the Minister responsible for Transport and Public Works in the province. The initial sitting of the Tribunal took place on 23 September 2015. Further sittings took place in October 2015, February, May and June 2016.
Out of the 32 operators who appeared before the Tribunal, 30 were found guilty of violating the conditions of their operating licences and the Code of Conduct. Two operators were acquitted by the PRE. These are operators whose vehicles were parked at the Lawaaikamp Community Centre after the protest action.
It is clear from the decision that any violent behaviour will not be tolerated. The Provincial Regulatory Entity has a responsibility to ensure a safe and dignified environment for public transport users. The decisions taken are in keeping with that responsibility and will send a clear message to the industry at large about what is appropriate and inappropriate conduct.
Although only one operating licence was cancelled by the PRE, the remaining operating licences were suspended for extended periods. A total of 18 operating licences were suspended for 6 months, a further 18 for 12 months and one operating licence for an 18-month period. The sanctions require that:
- These operating licences must be surrendered at the PRE Offices before the close of business on Friday, 16 September 2016.
- Vehicles specified in these operating licences may not be used to provide any public transport services for the period of suspension and may not be linked to other operating licences.
- No transactions will be allowed on any of the affected operating licences.
- Where an affected vehicle is observed providing a public transport service it may result in the cancellation of the operating licence.
It is unfortunate that affected operators will not be able to generate an income during the suspension periods, but operators have to realise that there are consequences for illicit actions. The length of the suspension is an indication of how serious we view these transgressions.
The Department of Transport and Public Works is also of the view that the barricading of Nelson Mandela Boulevard, which prevented the Go George bus from leaving the Thembalethu area placed the occupants of the bus in grave danger. The ensuing violent confrontations could have resulted in the loss of lives. Operators must conduct businesses in a more responsible manner, with the knowledge that they will be held indirectly liable for the conduct of their employees. In terms of regulation 304 and 305 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, no person may park a vehicle in the roadway in such a manner that it obstructs or causes danger to other traffic. Any vehicle parked in such a manner shall be deemed to have been abandoned by the owner.
The PRE also indicated that more operators have been identified that were part of the protest action on 19 August 2015 and that a second section 79 inquiry will be held soon.