Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele was pleased that taxi operators failed to stop the launch of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Johannesburg, he said in a statement on Saturday.

“The court decision means that we, as government, are now able to move a step closer towards providing safe, efficient and affordable public transport to the citizens of South Africa,” he said.

Ndebele also commended the taxi industry for addressing the issue through negotiations and the courts.

The taxi industry had tried an eleventh hour court application to the High Court in Pretoria on Friday to prevent the launch of the BRT, but the judge did not give them the go-ahead for an urgent interdict to stop the buses.

The system, which aims to revamp and integrate bus and taxi transport systems throughout the country, will be launched on Sunday with free rides for commuters and will be operational from Monday between Soweto and Johannesburg.

But taxi operators say government has developed BRT on routes taxis took decades to develop, threatening their livelihoods.
Ndebele said the national joint working group on the project would continue to talk with the taxi industry in efforts to draw up a memorandum of agreement.

“Everything we do in public transport must ultimately benefit the commuter,” he said.

The buses cater for users with special needs and wheelchairs and the system will allow existing bus and taxi operators to feed into the public transport system and contract with the relevant municipality on a long-term basis, he explained.

The taxi industry has initially planned a strike to object to BRT, but according to the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), this would not take place.

However, Ralph Jones, of the United Taxi Association Forum was non-committal on this, saying he would have more information following a meeting with civic organisations later on Saturday.

Gauteng safety MEC Khabisi Mosunkutu on Friday warned taxi operators who threatened violence: “There will be no blocking of highways. We will not tolerate taxis being abandoned in the middle of the streets.”

From noon to 16:00 on Sunday, free rides will be offered on the trunk route from Soweto to Coca-Cola Park, renamed recently from Ellis Park.

On Monday the system starts on the trunk route and two CBD circle routes.