fb

Fixing South Africa’s minibus taxi industry is proving hard: tracing its history shows why

By: Siyabulela Christopher Fobosi, University of Johannesburg

A policeman stands guard during a protest by minibus taxi operators against a new bus service for Johannnesburg.
Alexander Joe/AFP via Getty Images

 

The South African government has initiated a process to formalise and regulate the country’s large, yet informal minibus taxi industry, with a view to making it viable and free of violence.

The government envisions the industry being restructured “along legally recognised business units” that pay corporate tax and comply with labour laws. Formalisation will eventually pave the way for taxi commuters to benefit from public transport subsidies, resulting in cheaper fares.

According to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula

Training of operators and taxi workers across the value chain should be an integral part of the industry development and skilling programme.

The effort, if it succeeds, will resolve the anomaly whereby the government relies on the informal transport sector to provide a key public transport service. Minibus taxis are the preferred mode of transport for most South Africans because they are more efficient and more widely available than buses and trains.

Having studied the various approaches to the industry over the decades, I believe its integration into the country’s public transport plans is long overdue.

It will also bring to an end the industry’s long struggle for economic justice. The following overview provides just a glimpse of the key moments in the history of the industry’s development and struggle for recognition. It is by no means comprehensive.

Historical overview

The minibus taxi industry in South Africa was established by black people and continues to serve mostly that community.

As far as I could establish, the industry traces its origins back to the 1930s, when five-seater sedan cars were used. Then regulation stipulated that taxis could carry four passengers.

The black taxi industry’s battles mirror those of black people against racial oppression and economic exclusion.

Black people were considered temporary residents in the country’s urban areas, and to “belong” instead to ethnically defined, mostly rural areas called bantustans. These were characterised by extreme underdevelopment and poverty.

Blacks were not allowed to live and trade in urban areas unless they qualified for urban rights under the Urban Areas Act of 1945. Being in urban areas legally was made even more difficult by the “pass law”, introduced under apartheid in 1952. It was compulsory for black people to carry identity documents – called passes – that controlled their movements in urban areas.

The early taxi operators used sedan cars and only for trips within black communities. Minibus taxis operated illegally, as public carrier permits were difficult to obtain. At the same time, bus and rail transport was regulated and subsidised, but inefficient.

Black people were only allowed to be involved in one business. Companies and partnerships were prohibited, as were black financial institutions, industries and wholesale concerns.

This changed in the late 1970s when black people were allowed to establish small businesses. Further relief for taxi operators came through the Breda Commission of Inquiry into transport deregulation in 1977. This led to the Road Transportation Act of 1977, which recommended freer competition and less regulation of the industry, making it easier for black people to enter the transport industry.

Its definition of a bus opened the way for taxi operators to introduce ten-seater vehicles. This made the industry more profitable, attracting many new entrants and creating strong growth.

But there were still barriers. The operators were limited to only one vehicle each, in keeping with policies designed to exclude the majority black population from playing a meaningful role in the economy.

Deregulation

The demand for minibus taxi transport far outstripped supply. As too few taxi permits were being issued, the number of taxis operating without permits ballooned as operators sought to satisfy the growing demand.

The government established the Welgemoed Commission in 1983 to study the industry. It recommended that no more permits to operate taxis should be granted.
Even more taxis then operated largely illegally. Taxi operators were subjected to fines, and often had their vehicles impounded and forfeited to the state. Despite the limitations, the demand for taxi services continued to grow fast. Competition over routes grew and often became violent.

Eventually, the Transport Deregulation Act of 1988, in conjunction with the White Paper on Transport Policy, tabled in January 1987, eased restrictions. The government decided to let market forces prevail. Any applicant who wanted to enter the industry was granted a permit to operate a minibus taxi.

The industry kept growing. Profits were reinvested to buy new taxi fleets. Thus, the minibus taxi industry was one of the first in which black people could accumulate capital and gain economic power.

Minibus taxis have special significance as a black-owned industry which survived apartheid laws and without any subsidies to provide an essential service for black people.

Delayed formalisation

After apartheid, from April 1994, efforts were made to bring the industry under some form of regulation and to formalise its operations.

The democratic government established the National Taxi Task Team in 1995 to look for ways to improve safety and profitability and end violent conflicts over routes. The task team recommended that the industry be regulated and formalised.

The state failed due to the lack of willingness to implement the recommendations (and refusal from the industry to be formalised). It continued to support only the formalised bus and train services.

In 1999, the government took another shot at formalising the industry. It introduced the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme to remove old, unsafe minibuses and replace them with safer ones.




Read more:
South Africa’s minibus taxi industry has been marginalised for too long. This must change


The government envisioned a new, regulated taxi industry, using larger 18-seater and 35-seater diesel powered vehicles. The old, smaller taxis were to be phased out to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and improve safety. Operators who agreed to scrap their old taxis were paid R50,000 for each, to buy a new, compliant one.

The programme was revised in 2019 and the scrapping allowance was increased.

But only 72,690 old vehicles had been scrapped by the end of September 2018, in the 12 years since 2006, against a readjusted target of 135,894.

Shaping a future industry

The minibus taxi industry plays an important role in the economy of the country. Besides being the preferred transport mode for most commuters, it’s also a significant contributor to tax revenue and employment.

Equally importantly, it is one sector of the economy that is dominated by the black community, which was marginalised during colonialism and apartheid.

It is vital that the latest move by government towards formalisation results in an industry that is safe, reliable and viable so that it can keep contributing to the country’s economy. But the history of imposing unreasonable rules tells us that for this to succeed, the industry must be included in planning the route to its own future.The Conversation

Siyabulela Christopher Fobosi, Senior Researcher, UNESCO ‘Oliver Tambo’ Chair of Human Rights, University of Fort Hare, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Receive the latest news

    Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    THE KAYA 959 APP NOW AVAILABLE

    DOWNLOAD YOURS NOW

    Copyright Notice

    1. COPYRIGHT

    1.1 The contents of this Website, including but not limited to its compilation and arrangement, is the exclusive property of Kaya 959, alternatively the suppliers of content to Kaya 959, and accordingly remain protected by South African and International Copyright and Trademark laws.

    1.2 Any person accessing this Website, may not, save for downloading one copy for their personal computers and solely for their private and non-commercial use :

    1.2.1 Copy, disseminate, distribute, advertise, publish, adapt, modify or in any way reproduce the contents of this website for commercial purposes, unless this notice and any disclaimer attached thereto is published in its entirety, or unless the permission of Kaya 959 is obtained in writing.

    Privacy Policy

    THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT FORMS PART OF KAYA 959’S TERMS OF USE POLICY. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH ANY TERM OF THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT, YOU MUST CEASE YOUR ACCESS OF THIS WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY. 

    POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

    RECOGNISING THAT—

    • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
    • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
    • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;

    AND BEARING IN MIND THAT—

    • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;

    AND IN ORDER TO—

    • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
    1. Definitions and Interpretation

    1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

    1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

     
    1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

    1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

    1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL www.kaya959.co.za or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

    1. Status and Amendments

    2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

    2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

    2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

    1. Processing of Personal Information

    3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

    3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

    3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
    collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

    3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

    3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

    3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

    3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

    3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

    1. Collection of anonymous data

    4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

    4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

    4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

    4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: 

    4.2.2.1. The browser software used; 

    4.2.2.2. IP address; 

    4.2.2.3. Date and time of activities while visiting the website; 

    4.2.2.4. URLs of internal pages visited; and 

    4.2.2.5. referrers. 

    4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

    1. Security

    5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

    1. Links to other websites

    6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

    1. Queries

    7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected] 

    Competition Terms and Conditions

    • The competitions are open to all persons over the age of 18 years; except directors, partners, employees, agents, service providers, and consultants of Kaya 959, the sponsor and all its subsidiaries and its holding company, if any, as well as all spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners and associates of such persons.

    • The outcome of the competition is subject to the decision of the judge/presenter, whose decision is final and no negotiation will be entered into thereafter. Neither Kaya 959, sponsors nor their agents will be held responsible or answerable to any dispute arising from the competition or prize awards.

    • Participants/listeners enter or take part in competitions at their own risk and Kaya 959 bears no responsibility for any loss, damage or harm suffered as a result of participation in any of Kaya 959 competition.

    • One listener is entitled to winning one prize in a period of 3 months. Kaya 959 reserves the right not to award a prize if the listener has won a prize prior during the 3 month window period. This also applies to listeners who provide family or friend’s contact details.

    • Kaya 959 reserves the right to redistribute all unclaimed prizes if not claimed after 3 months after being given away On Air or on the website.

    • Prizes are not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash.

    • Finalists will forfeit their participation in the competition if they fail to attend the draws.

    • The competition will run during the period advertised on Kaya 959; entries received outside of the competition period will not be considered for the competition draw.

    • Kaya 959 and their sponsors reserve the right to cancel, modify or amend the competition at any time if deemed necessary in their opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of their control.

    • By entering the competition, entrants agree to accept these rules and to be bound by them.