Organisations representing public transport users and supporting the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system say they disagree with threats of disruption made by the taxi industry, and have requested to be part of the negotiations between the government and the taxi industry.

On Saturday, they elected 40 people to participate in the national joint working group set up by President Jacob Zuma.

“Whatever happens in the public transport industry affects us. We are the recipients, so we should know what’s taking place. Instead of just the government and taxis, now we’ll have a triangle,” said the elected chairman, Dumisane Mthalane.

‘We are the recipients, so we should know what’s taking place’
The organisations are the SA National Civic Organisation, the SA Commuters Organisation, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, the National Economic Development and Labour Council, the Gauteng Commuters Organisation, the SA Disability Alliance and Cosatu.

The group says the taxi industry should not go on strike without consulting the public.

“We have a lot of respect for the taxi industry because during the apartheid time they provided transport when black people did not have transport. We salute them for that. But they must start consulting us,” said Mthalane.

“The taxi bosses must understand that before they come under the banner of the taxi industry, they are part of the community. They reside within us, so why don’t they talk to us?”

He said they respected the taxi industry’s constitutional right to strike within the ambit of the law, but they had been told by the government that the BRT buses would be driven by taxi drivers, and wanted to know what the taxi industry was unhappy about.

The organisations were also concerned about threats of violence, and said they would call on law enforcement agencies to help if the strike resulted in law-breaking activities.

Mthalane said the threats were making communities feel unsafe. “(The taxi industry) has said there will be casualties. Who are going to be the casualties?

“Even if people want to go on strike, there shouldn’t be threats. If there is a strike, we’ll appeal to Commissioner Bheki Cele to protect the communities.”

In a statement, the organisations said the BRT would reduce congestion, enabling public transport users to reach their destinations faster.

They also said they understood the need to implement the BRT in order to meet 2010 deadlines, and that any opposition to the government’s attempts to implement the system was “selfish and opportunistic”.

The taxi industry announced last week that it would embark on an indefinite strike from September 1, the day after the launch of the BRT system in Joburg.

Addressing the media, the United Taxi Association Forum and the SA National Taxi Association said the government had not acted in good faith by introducing the BRT.

The two associations are also in the process of obtaining a court interdict to stop the rollout of the BRT in Joburg.