Govt lashes out against taxi industry threats

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cape Town - Government has condemned threats of violence made by the taxi industry, against the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

"Such threats of violence and actual violent conduct are viewed in a very serious light and will not be tolerated," Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Thursday, following an ordinary meeting of cabinet.

Mr Maseko warned that law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to take strong action against those who either threaten or perpetrate any form of violence.

Government, he said, acknowledged the right of those unhappy with the BRT to protest, but was adamant that this "right cannot be exercised at the expense of law abiding citizens, who have an equal right to a safe, punctual and efficient ride between home and work."

Taxi bosses have threatened to start their indefinite nationwide strike if the launch of Rea Veya busses goes ahead on Sunday.

According to the taxi industry, the BRT would adversely affect its business. However, government has re-affirmed its commitment to implement the system, in partnership with all stakeholders, particularly the taxi industry.

"Government is firmly committed to making sure that all stakeholders are consulted, are part of the initiative and fully support it."

It is for this reason, Mr Maskeo said, that government agreed to the establishment of the National Joint Working Group on Public Transport. This working group will lay the basis for a stronger partnership between government and the taxi industry.

"Government is firmly committed to working with the taxi industry to address all their legitimate interests, concerns, and anxieties as the industry goes through this transformation," he said.

He further said that contractual agreements to implement the BRT will be signed between the respective cities and the relevant taxi associations.

He reiterated that government was committed to working with the industry to ensure that it was not marginalised, adding that government sees the taxi industry as forming part of this initiative.

"All the cities that are implementing the BRT system have made unequivocal commitments to ensure that the affected operators are consulted and become an integral part of the BRT," Mr Maseko said.

The BRT initiative is aimed at improving and changing the way commuters travel in major cities by providing an integrated, efficient, affordable, reliable and safe public transport system.

"Improving public transport for South Africans is not negotiable, as it has the potential to improve the quality of life of our citizens and increase productivity across the board," stressed Mr Maseko.

Modelled on Columbia's public transport system, Rea Vaya will include 143 new buses that will operate between 5am and 11pm daily, at a frequency of three minutes in peak times and every 10 minutes during off-peak times.

Commuters will pay as little as R3 for a trip in the inner city, and R8 for a full trip, with any number of transfers for two hours.

The services expected to kick off on 30 August will run from Lakeview station, in Soweto, to Ellis Park station, also offering an inner-city complementary service. It will operate in two shifts, with limited off-peak services.

Phase 1B of the BRT system, which is due before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will include a second Soweto route, running past the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand, on to Sandton. Phase 1C will encompass the route from Alexandra to Cresta.