Taxi bosses threaten mass action against BRT

By Chris Bathembu

Pretoria - The United Taxi Association Forum (UTAF), a body representing at least 31 taxi associations, has threatened to embark on a mass protest the day before the official launch of the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the city.

This was announced by the forum during a meeting of more than 300 taxi operators in Johannesburg on Wednesday, were government was accused of "double crossing" them in as far the BRT was concerned.

UTAF spokesperson Ralf Jones said the UTAF would be writing to different associations across all cities affected by BRT to seek solidarity for the strike.

"We want to tell South Africans that it will be a national strike…and it's not going to be a one day strike," he said, adding that the mass action would continue until government consulted with the "proper leadership" of the taxi industry.

Central to the taxi operator's concerns is the announcement by Johannesburg City Mayor Amos Masondo last week that the first phase of BRT will be launched in Soweto on 1 September.

Last Sunday, Soweto residents had the opportunity to view the state-of-the-art buses, ahead of the official launch of the BRT. The brightly coloured red, blue and white busses were put on display at the station built next to Thokoza Park.

The high-floor buses will allow passengers to embark and disembark at closed, raised stations, with level boarding every half a kilometre to three quarters of a kilometre. It will cut traffic congestion and contribute to faster transit times as well as less fuel wastage and air pollution.

"We as the taxi industry have not said yes to the BRT system. We need to make it clear that government has been negotiating with people that do not have the mandate," said South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) secretary general Philip Taaibosch.

Mr Taaibosch's comments and backing to UTAF have come despite SANTACO being part of the deliberations of the National Joint Working Group on Public Transport, formed by Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, in June.

Mr Jones said they were waiting to meet with government. "We still say no to BRT until our members understand what it is. It's very important that you take note that the industry has been saying it has not been consulted. The consultation process has been flawed."

Both Mr Jones and Mr Taaibosch, however, emphasized that they were not against the BRT system but felt they have not been consulted properly enough.

The parties said, through their lawyers, they will also be seeking a court interdict preventing the City of Johannesburg from launching the BRT on 1 September.

Mr Taaibosch gave an undertaking that the strike will not be violent. "There will be no violence, there has never been violence in our strikes," he said. - BuaNews