NATIONAL NEWS - President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the taxi industry to disassociate itself from acts of sexism and gender-based violence (GBV) and to work as a collective to ensure women feel and are safe when using its services.
Ramaphosa on Thursday virtually addressed the three-day Taxi Lekgotla led by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Ramaphosa said the lekgotla should be a turning point for the taxi industry to divorce itself from disregarding the country’s laws, including road rules, and the abuse of passengers.
The president called on the industry to work together to ensure women are safe when travelling by taxi and are not victims of abuse, not degraded or called names and even when women are in taxi ranks they are not whistled at or harassed.
“We must respect the women of our country,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said the taxi industry was the lifeblood of the country’s public transport system and the “sinews and muscles of our economy”.
The taxi industry “unashamedly” plays a key and important role in the transport of people and since the late 1970s has served and provided them with accessible means of transportation, Ramaphosa said.
The black-led industry is effective, highly empowered and an original idea in which black people have set up an eco-system in which they excel, the president said.
Ramaphosa added that from its humble beginnings, the industry has grown from “strength to strength” and “by leaps and bounds”.
An estimated 150 000 business owners, “nearly all of them black”, operate in the industry, Ramaphosa said, adding that the taxi industry makes a major contribution to employment, directly or indirectly.
The taxi industry directly employs about 400 000 people, Ramaphosa said.
“As an industry I want you to know that you play the most important role in the economy of our country,” Ramaphosa said, adding that transformation and empowerment in the industry are needed.
Challenges such as the financing of vehicles and their maintenance threaten taxi businesses, Ramaphosa noted, further saying that badly maintained taxis not only threaten the lives of passengers but those of other road users.
He said it was critical for the industry to overcome the challenges it grapples with for it to adapt, grow and thrive.
Formalising and regulating the taxi industry as well as ensuring economic empowerment in the sector is crucial, the president said.
Ramaphosa said formalising the industry was a vital step to ensuring it contributes to the country’s tax revenue base and that workers benefit from social support such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
The lekgotla needs to come up with concrete measures to ensure the taxi industry’s long-term sustainability, Ramaphosa said.
It is important for the industry to address the challenges that tarnish its reputation, such as labour relations challenges and allegations of the exploitation of workers, the high accident rate of taxis, the industry’s response to the rise of e-hailing services, its compliance with tax laws and conflict, resulting in competition over routes and associated acts of violence and criminality, Ramaphosa said.
Another discussion point at the lekgotla will be government subsidisation, the state’s investment in the taxi recapitalisation programme, access to finance and skills development, Ramaphosa said.
An efficient, safe and reliable public system will be key in achieving the goals of the economic recovery plan, Ramaphosa said.
The government is striving for all forms of public transport to be integrated, the president said.
“It is only through an integrated system that we are able to offer the best value for money and convenience to the public,” Ramaphosa said.