|So the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system launched barely a month late and SA entered a new era in public transport. It was, of course, not without incident, with two people shot, a number of rogue taxi drivers ignoring calls from the taxi associations not to cause disruption and then on Friday evening, the murder of the deputy boss of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), Tutu Molefe.
It was obviously no surprise that the murder was speculatively linked to BRT, given the fact that thousands of taxi operators and drivers across the country feel somewhat abandoned by their associations. They were expecting to be told to cause maximum disruption in a misinformed bid to protect their livelihoods, but instead the associations remained quiet and the buses, albeit with heavy police protection, continued on their merry way.
Rea Vaya, operators of BRT, heralded the launch a success, but one has to consider whether the international community will look at it the same way. Imagine you are a soccer supporter planning to come over for the World Cup next year and you see that you have to be escorted to the games by the police and the army if you use public transport. Undoubtedly the show of force by our security forces worked well to keep trouble at bay, but perception is everything, particularly overseas.
One person who impressed me was Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokanyane, who made it clear that trouble would not be tolerated. Development of an efficient public transport system is vital to improving the economy, and she said no one would be allowed to prevent progress. Finally, someone who realises that S A is moving forward and that we must clamp down on those who hold us back.
There can be little doubt that the taxi industry is vital within an overall public transport infrastructure programme. However, governments both old and new have allowed it to become too egomaniacal to a point where it was literally dictating to the government of the country. As Mokanyane pointed out, â€œwe are the governmentâ€, and it is this attitude that will have to become prevalent in order to root out unruly elements in various sectors of society.
Her stance is reminiscent of Tito Mboweni â€™s negotiating tactics with striking lorry drivers a number of years ago when they blockaded the N3, a vital road freight artery. The drivers and the unions wanted to negotiate while they continued the blockade, but he told them to move their trucks or they get nothing. It worked, the trucks moved and they sat around the table while the freight continued to be delivered on time.
These are the attitudes that need to be taken. Harsh words and resolute leaders will take us forward, now if only everyone in government could be like that. President Jacob Zuma was clearly pandering to the taxi industry when he agreed to put BRT on hold, but then how quiet was he when BRT launched? Progress is inevitable and not even Zuma could hold it back when it came to the reality that we need a public transport infrastructure that works.
The next thing will be to get unroadworthy vehicles off our congested roads, to improve our emissions standards and clean up the roadsides. Law enforcement needs leaders who also see the future clearly and know what has to be done and are mandated to do it. It is time for our government to be governmental to inspire us all to make this country even greater.