Johannesburg’s bus rapid transit system — which lurched to a halt after threats by taxi bosses — on Thursday received the go-ahead from the government.
“The city leading the process [Johannesburg] around the first phases of BRT must continue … today we want to provide the green light to proceed,” said Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin said at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.
Cronin was speaking after a meeting between Transport Minister Sibisisu Ndebele, senior transport officials and taxi bosses.
President Jacob Zuma backed a proposal — two days before the general elections on April 22 — to put the system on hold until after the polls.
Cronin said government hoped the system in Johannesburg would be up and running by the end of August.
The meeting re-opened talks between the government and the taxi industry over the BRT and other industry concerns.
Transport Minister Sibisiso Ndebele said a joint working group on public transport would be formed to deal with the industry’s concerns.
“Of paramount importance is [that] we need to engage in a structured process of meaningful dialogue,” he said.
He said negotiations on how the industry would become involved in the business side of the BRT system were needed.
“The issues for negotiations include the ownership structure for the existing taxi operators and workers, the institutional arrangements for the value-chain benefits and broad-based black economic empowerment in various areas,” he said.
By 2025, it is envisaged that the system will cover about 1 400km across South Africa.
Ndebele said the taxi industry should be part of the mainstream of the economy.
“If I may ask, where are the blacks, and particularly Africans, located in the mainstream of the economy of our country? In my engagement with the taxi industry I have never understood why the taxi industry — which is black-owned, controlled and run — still remains at the margin in economic terms.
“The taxi industry must become part of the mainstream of our economy and ensure the empowerment of our people,” he said.
South African National Taxi Association president Andrew Mthembu assured South Africans that there would be no disruptions of the Soccer World Cup or the Confederations Cup.
Disruptions were threatened when the taxi industry’s anger over the BRT system peaked earlier this year.
Mthembu seemed cautiously optimistic about the talks with the government and said the industry had agreed to develop a team to work with the government.
“This is our bread and butter … this is our child … we want our child to be adopted, but the question is how?” he said of the industry, which, had started “on its own”.
Mthembu said the transport department wanted to draw the industry into the economy by dealing with concerns including an economic empowerment plan for the sector, licensing and regulatory problems and training and capacity building. – Sapa