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The City of Cape Town has moved to quell fears that its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system sought to buy out the minibus taxi industry.

City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority Portfolio Manager: Integrated Transport, Mr Gershwin Fortune, told the Portfolio Committee on Transport on Tuesday that the minibus taxi industry needed to be integrated into the BRT system, in its current form.

“We can’t replace the taxi industry. They have to be part of the system. They perform a function unfortunately the scheduled service will not, and this is a key lesson that came out clear in the first phase implementation,” he said.

He said the Cape Town’s minibus taxi industry was so vibrant and that it worked well with the BRT system.

He led a City’s delegation that came to Parliament to brief the Committee on challenges, risks and lessons learnt since the implementation of the BRT system. All metros will, during the course of the day, update the Committee on challenges – and the non-implementing cities will also give an update on where they are with regard to their implementation plans.

Committee member Mr Leornard Ramatlakane commented and said it looked like the strategy was to “elbow out” the taxi industry.

“Currently it seems you do not have a feeder system but displacements. You are moving out the minibus taxis in favour of MyCiti. Can you speak about the cost factor and the buy out strategy where some of the routes have been taken over?” asked Mr Ramatlakane.

He asked if the buy-out was in compliance with policy, especially given that government wanted to improve the only industry that is wholly in the hands of black people.

“This is an industry that has struggled over the years, and is increasingly not finding support, instead there is a concerted effort to elbow it out. Why are they being elbowed out? This is the only industry that black people have ownership of,” he said.

He said it seemed MyCiti’s strategy was not compliant with government’s efforts of growing small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, said the emphasis ought to be on policy imperatives like reliability, safety and quality of the service. She asked if safety was guaranteed, especially that the service operated until late at night.

“But also the policy emphasises social inclusion. While doing your operations, are you taking this into consideration? Human settlements and transport are critical if the country is to achieve social inclusion,” she said.

Ms Magadzi cautioned that if the intention was to buy out the minibus taxis, the country was likely to see violence. “We should work together on this matter, as they will always come back into operations even if you tried to take them out.”

Members also sought clarity on such things as strategy for gas emissions, costs and single-ticket across transport modes, and the relationships with stakeholders in the industry like taxi associations and Uber.

The City of Johannesburg will deliver its presentation soon.

By Sibongile Maputi
12 September 2017