The taxi industry must be part of the mainstream of the South African economy, Transport Minister Sibisiso Ndebele said on Thursday.

“If I may ask, where are the blacks, and particularly Africans, located in the mainstream of the economy of our country?” he asked at Gallagher Estate, in Midrand, following a meeting with taxi bosses.

“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.

Ndebele announced the formation of a joint working group on public transport to deal with the industry’s concerns over the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and other issues affecting the sector.

“Of paramount importance is [that] we need to engage in a structured process of meaningful dialogue,” he said.

Negotiations on how the industry would become involved in the business side of the BRT system were necessary. “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.

South African National Taxi Association president Andrew Mthembu assured South Africans that there would be no disruptions of the 2010 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, he said, had started “on its own”.

The BRT system accounted for a small portion of the issues faced by the industry.

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.