The Limpopo National Taxi Alliance during the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Safety Security and Liaison’s public hearings recently asked for the establishment of a judiciary commission of enquiry on the causes of taxi violence.
Sam Lefuwa, Provincial Coordinator of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, on behalf of the alliance asked that current and previous government officials must testify and that participants be allowed to testify in camera. A protection programme should also be set up for those who testify who need it or who are assessed as being at high risk of being assassinated. A life-style audit of current and previous officials of the Department of Transport, Safety, Security and Liaison should also be conducted. It is alleged that a lot of corrupt officials in the Office of the Registrar’s sold taxi routes to associations who did not qualify to be registered on certain routes, leading to taxi operators fighting over the routes.
According to the presentation many taxi operators in Limpopo are operating illegal taxis due to the alleged incompetence of the department. According to the alliance the Operating Licence Board did not accept applications for taxi permits for five years, as there was a moratorium in place on new taxi permits – a statement later proven to be false. Many operators were forced to operate new taxis without permits to meet the supply demand. After the false moratorium was exposed, municipalities refused to issue concurrencies in support of new applications for various reasons and taxis were impounded or bribes accepted to let the operators continue. No new permits are being issued even now.
Some operators opted to buy unused permits or operating licenses to avoid impoundment of their taxis and other forms of harassment by law enforcers and others acquired fake permits or operating licenses.
Operation permits are valid for a period of between three and five years, depending on the act and the municipality, making the taxi industry unattractive to investors. The alliance allege that conversions, transfers and replacements of permits and operating licenses take too long, with devastating implications for applicants.
The alliance told the committee that every day an operator or leader in the taxi industry is assassinated, and that it is systematic and planned and to date no person has been arrested and convicted for the murders. Greedy taxi operators encroach on lucrative taxi routes and those seen as resisting or as an obstacle in their way, are eliminated. Leaders who do not want to account for the associations’ finances who are questioned are also responsible for eliminations.
Committee Chairperson Namane Masemola said there are issues that must be further investigated. Transport, Safety, Security and Liaison MEC, Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana said she was fighting corruption within the department and much had already been done in this regard.
On Tuesday the Spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Safety, Security and Liaison Kagiso Mootane said letters have been sent to taxi associations to enquire about their availability for a meeting, and the department was awaiting answers.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS