The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) announced this week it wanted full control of the bus rapid transport (BRT) system because it had developed the taxi routes.

After initially saying there was no way the BRT was going ahead, the NTA seems to have woken up to the fact that there is going to be no turning back, and now wants full ownership of the project.

It must now be clear to the government and commuters that nothing can be done without the buy-in of the taxi industry.

The fact that it took the intervention from President Jacob Zuma — when the taxi owners threatened to strike in April — shows the power that the industry wields.

Taxi owners now boast about pioneering black economic empowerment, but the industry remains largely unregulated and many commuters must endure journeys in unsafe vehicles. That said, the industry does work quite well. The vast majority of commuters reach their homes and places of employment fairly rapidly, and can get dropped just about anywhere. Privately, however, many commuters complain that drivers fail to obey the rules of the road. This in turn is a symptom of the way the industry is structured, as drivers are under pressure to fill their vehicles with passengers and then return to the rank and start all over again.

While the taxis filled a vital gap during apartheid, and still do today, the industry needs to clean up its act. It’s obvious that drivers need to be paid better and vehicles in a poor state of repair must be taken off the road.

As to the intellectual property argument, this will not fly. As specialist in the field said this week, no airline is going to be laying claim to a flight path.