#232 This is the time for appropriate reforms beyond the Taxi Lekgotla

Public transport subsidies are quite complex to design, allocate, model and implement— in addition to administering. So I have written extensively about how I see the evolution of the taxi industry over the years— and my hypothesis is coming true. It starts off by filling a market gap, then self-identification, from there it leads to corporatisation. Through the Lekgotla (probably until 2025) the industry will be in self-identification mode, only reaching the Transport Operating Company stage after 2025/30 even. 

There are also some notes about how the operator and user subsidy issues would pan out in another article. The issues around whether subsidies are direct or indirect matters, and ensuring that there is an equitable organisational model is key. 

If you like, consider reflecting on whether the minibus taxi industry is essential and avenues for reform— this also came true. In this article, you’re taken through the various avenues for reform and transformation, but the big question is whether the state must take charge or if the industry should do it themselves. 

Current approach 

The current approach, toward April 2021, appears to be structured around taking a step, and finding out if it was the right one later. 

This observation, not fact, is based on the four discussion documents that were published on the 11th September 2020. 

The discussion documents presented points around unity to outline the political structure; empowerment and to describe the various approaches to professionalisation; and options related to regulation. While the technical analysis of these reports will be part of a more comprehensive study, I must indicate some key lapses that may pose a significant challenge. 

For one, the necessitation of Municipal Regulatory Entities, vis a vis Provincial Regulatory Entities is not an option A or B situation. Both entities have unique roles to play, as the industry increases in complexity. 

The reason why the regulatory discourse is packaged this way has to do with the fact that the practical issues around transport planning are being severely sidelined— and this, this is the habitual rabbit hole. 

Operating licences are not allocated by virtue of compulsion, no, they are allocated based on empirical assessments along minibus taxi routes in order to ensure fair revenue for operators and fair prices for commuters. 

This information is held in the transport plans— they indicate how increasing vehicles in a route would affect the dynamics of the market. At this level, fair subsidy models can be built— which we’re working on. 

Municipalities are key

Another thing, is the idea that municipalities do not have capacity. This is accurate, but only until the functions are genuinely devolved to them. 

That means, where service delivery takes place, planning takes place as well. It is so crucial to question the longevity of these conversations, because supporting the minibus taxi industry is a continuous process of relationship building and consistent engagement. It is a local industry with very local issues— some are universal. 

The fact that there are a number of queries about what I say in my interviews around this issue, makes it quite clear that many critical stakeholders have not read through the discussion documents, nor have they critically analysed the National Land Transport Act in preparation for the Lekgotla. 

Whereas truly implementing the programmes envisioned there requires technical and ideological competencies that will pierce through April 2021. 

While we work to prepare stakeholders to absorb the new realities, through research, it is of absolute importance that the empiricism is done right. If not, then we will miss the opportunity to appropriately reform public transport in this country. 

Thank you for reading, and hey, take time out and read this week’s Fin24 article.

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