Ah, the curious case of the South African minibus taxi. Scourge of the roads and hero of our economy. They’ve taken some time off from shooting at one another on our public highways to bemoan the new Traffic Administration Amendment Bill. And no, we’re not talking about the demerit system.
Last year, the Western Cape Government announced a new proposed traffic law and later, opened it up for public comment. You may remember it. It proposed that if we were seriously ill-disciplined on the roads, as taxis are so notorious for, the government would impound our vehicles.
How have taxi operators responded? With chaos, of course.
The Amendment Bill
The Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Administration Amendment Bill, 2016, didn’t go down as smoothly as they’d hoped.
Act 6 of the 2012 Traffic Administration Act will be altered to permit the direct impoundment of vehicles.
This will be put into effect for certain serious road traffic offences, and theoretically, it aims to encourage road safety. Through education and promotion, they say, though didn’t bother going into much detail about this.
Offences could include illegal street racing, un-roadworthy motor vehicles, unregistered vehicles, vehicles with missing or fake number plates, or driving a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s licence.
Secretary of the Congress for Democratic Taxi Associations, Andile Khanyi, said that the bill is specifically aimed at taxi operators.
“We are always being targeted and this should stop,” he said. “Our drivers have licences and their vehicles are roadworthy. If laws like this are being processed we should be consulted.”
“We are going to block roads and bring this city to a standstill if needs be.”
Public hearings on the bill were held in George, Worcester, Cape Town and Piketberg, and ended on 16 November.
Impoundments as a deterrent will no doubt counter poor adherence to traffic laws, and in South Africa we are sorely in need of deterrents. With corruption as it already is, however, how long will it be before the threat of impoundment is used against the average, law-abiding motorist?
By solving one problem – the horrifically bad drivers on our roads – they’re creating another, in granting more power to crooked, immoral traffic officials.
Should the bill become law, taxi operators have promised that ‘all hell will break loose.’
The Taxi Industry In South Africa
“What frustrates me is we are never involved in the decision-making process,” said Andile Khanyi. “We are adding to the economy, we are running our businesses and getting people to work and wherever else they have to be.”
Because of how unregulated the taxi industry is in South Africa, there’s really no way to tell exactly how much money it generates. There’s no set fare among taxi’s and routes, it’s only estimated that there are around 200 000 minibus taxis on our roads, etc.
It is widely reported, though, by SA National Taxi Council (SANTACO) that the industry generates over R90 billion per year.
According to taxi finance company, SATaxi, each taxi creates seven jobs related to the industry. SANTACO claims that the industry employs more than 600 000 people, and it is further reported that taxis transport 15 million commuters every day.
Whether we like it or not, taxis are the wheels of Africa’s largest economy. If the taxi industry were to collapse – there would be no workers on the factory floor. No cleaners. No gardeners. Nobody to man the tills, stock the shelves, look after your children or prepare your food. Nobody to clear away your garbage or repair your roads.
The lawlessness of the industry remains a huge problem though, often being associated with speeding, reckless driving and violence.
Regarding the amendment to the act, transport MEC Donald Grant has emphasized that the proposed laws are not specifically targeting taxi drivers, but all motorists.
“I know that there are taxi associations that are unhappy because they have not been consulted,” he said. “But the proposed law is not to target taxis. It’s not targeting anyone; every single vehicle can be impounded.”