Speech by MEC for Public Transport, Roads and Works Ignatius Jacobs Launch of the Taxi Scrapping Agency.

31 March 2007, Wesbank Raceway.

Programme Director;
Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Metro,
Councillor Duma Nkosi;
Friends and Colleagues;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

(A) Introduction

Let me start by quoting the famous line and adage that says “there is nothing as powerful as the idea whose time has come”. All of us here today, have made great strides. We have crossed the public transport Rubicon. We have laid the building blocks, and, in the same vein, we have also become the building blocks. Together with our partners in the taxi industry and the commuter organisations, we as government, have mobilized more than 50 000 taxi operators to apply to convert their radius based permits to the new Route Based Operating Licenses, and also laid the foundation for the modernisation of the taxi industry. And, we have also managed to help unite commuter organisations in our province, under a new and united voice for public transport users, known as the Gauteng Commuter Organisation. All of us are also united behind a common programme to improve a significant part of public transport in our province and our country, the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme.

And to those at home and at work, those traveling to places of sporting activity, we as government would like to say, that what we are celebrating, this morning, here at Ekurhuleni Metro, and in Gauteng Province, is not a partnership for self-serving convenience. It is not a worthless means to an end and it is also not a dream doomed to fail. Instead, it is a living relationship, between government, the commuters, the taxi industry and the broader community of our province, based on a common vision for our country’s socioeconomic wellbeing. It is about collective confidence in achieving a better Gauteng. It is also about holding one another’s hand and walking the path towards a better public transport system that is effective, efficient and integrated as well as safe, affordable, accessible, reliable and environmentally sustainable, and better placed to serve the needs of our people.

(B) Context

All of us hold in our hands, not just the extension of a united resolve and determination to change the face of public transport for the better, but the continued growth and development of Gauteng Province, the economic hub of South Africa. We, in Gauteng Province, are playing our part in building our beloved country based on the massive belief and aspirations of the people of South Africa, in the possibility of the attainment of our own “Rome”. Today, we gather to also speak of a future Gauteng, whose transport system shall be of world class standards, and whose new spatial planning and design is already linking communities and enabling faster access to economic opportunities, thus creating a city region of united services. Through our growing partnerships, with all stakeholders in our province, we are living that dream.

Public transport is the future. Our province is now home to more than nine million people, and the population continues to grow. This brings with it, countless possibilities and opportunities to engage in more business activity in the transportation of people, goods and services. What we as government would like to see is also a taxi industry that will take its rightful place in the broader transportation arena, producing entrepreneurs who have an understanding of the opportunities that exist in the area of transport in general.

(C) Challenges

As government, we believe that transport is the heartbeat of our country’s economy. It is up to all of us to decide whether we want to become the heroes of the very moment we hold in our hands or whether to miss the opportunity to change things for the better, and for the benefit of the broader community.

Let me also say, however, that the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme is not just about cars and their age or condition. It is about the Reconstruction and Development of our country. It is about redressing historical imbalances in the investment of the mobility of people, so as to make it easier, and better, for thousands, of mothers, fathers, children and workers, to get to their destinations on time, in comfort and in safety, using public transport that is equitably accessed by all, irrespective of how far they stay or their socioeconomic standing. The mandate of this democratically government is to use the resources at its disposal to bring forth the possibility of the achievement of this very important goal and strategic objective.

Public transport must enable us to break the obstacles and the barriers to meaningful participation in the livelihood of our communities. And on that note, we would like to acknowledge the important and historic role played by the taxi industry from the dark days of historical disadvantage and underdevelopment.

Thank you, for patiently building a network of public transport corridors that have since become the very lifeblood of the economic heartbeat of our country’s economy. Even though by deliberate design, you were excluded from meaningful participation in the growth and development of our country’s transport system, you have defied all odds to take your rightful place on matters of public transport.

(D) The Taxi Recap Programme and the Scrapping of Old Taxi Vehicles

The Old Taxi Vehicles have played their part and helped us to become better communities. They have built families, over many decades, and they have taken us to school, and to work, and other places of trade. They have given us access to the once distant possibility to overcome the odds and to become one, in the most difficult times of the growing pains of our country. These vehicles have written the history of our province, bringing, to Gauteng, and shuttling, millions of migrant workers. They have transported and also built a forever growing African Diaspora that continues to converge in the very economic centre of Mzansi Africa, giving us the possibility to benefit from the knowledge and the collective skill of Africa’s best talents.

The scrapping of the Old Taxi Vehicles is also symbolic of the rebirth, the growth and the modernisation of the taxi industry so as to ensure that it better serves and whets the socioeconomic appetite of the many communities that Gauteng continues to give birth to. Public transport is also critical in the mission to defeat the twin challenges of poverty and underdevelopment in the southern African socioeconomic hive of activity and trade.

(E) Conclusion

Today’s event is also not just about taxis alone. It is also about integrating all public transport modes into a seamless system, resulting in the delivery of a united service to the people. It is about building an integrated public transport system. Government is now working tirelessly to build a public transport friendly road network together with integrated public transport corridors. All of this work will put us in a better position to introduce new taxi vehicles that take will the quality of public transport to higher levels.

Yesterday, we launched and also celebrated the opening of a new centre of driver excellence, in Gauteng; a new fully automated drivers’ license testing system, at the Langlaagte Drivers’ License Testing Centre; and we are convinced that it will help us to produce better drivers who will enable us to improve the quality of service, improve road safety and to save precious lives.

As a caring government, we believe that this initiative will tie with today’s Official Launch of the Scrapping Agency in Gauteng and also help us to achieve our strategic objective.

DATED: 31st March 2007