Media Statement by Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele at the media briefing, following the meeting with the taxi industry and civil society on 3 September 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

A very good morning to you all and welcome to this media briefing following yesterday's (Thursday, 3 September 2009) meeting in Tshwane between government, the taxi industry and civil society.

All of you are aware of the shooting of a Rea Vaya bus in Soweto on Tuesday night (1 September 2009), which left two people, including a police officer, injured. As government, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this shooting. I have been assured by national Police Commissioner Bheki Cele that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is working around the clock to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are speedily brought to book, and face the full might of the law.

Such attacks on the lives of innocent citizens cannot be allowed to continue. All law enforcement agencies are, therefore, stepping up their measures to protect lives and property, including a stronger police presence. We will continue to ensure that our commuters are protected at all cost.

We want to re-iterate that the interest of the commuter remains paramount. Therefore, everything we do in public transport must ultimately benefit the commuter.

On Sunday (30 August 2009), we started a special journey and took a step forward towards improving the quality of life of our people, when Rea Vaya Phase 1a was successfully launched in Johannesburg.

This followed the decision of the High Court in Pretoria which ruled, last Friday (28 August 2009), against an urgent application by the taxi industry to prevent the launch of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

Yesterday's (3 September 2009) meeting was attended by representatives from national, provincial and local government as well as the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), South African Commuter Organisation (SACO), South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (SATAWU), South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) and the South African Disability Alliance (SADA).

Matters discussed at the meeting included:
ú Finalisation of the Memorandum of Agreement, as was resolved at the inaugural National Joint Working Group on Public Transport (NJWG) meeting held on 30 July 2009.

ú Finalisation of the national framework to guide implementation of Integrated Rapid Transport Networks (IRPTNs) by local authorities and deal with the inclusion of existing operators and labour.

ú Coordination of cross-cutting implementation issues related to BRT such as:
- negotiation process;
- business models;
- ownership and compensation;
- empowerment models; and
- links with other public transport projects.

ú Monitoring IRPTN/BRT progress across spheres of government, focusing on the incorporation of operators and workers in accordance with the National Framework.

Resolutions adopted at the meeting included:

* A broader NJWG meeting will consider and adopt the Memorandum of Agreement at a meeting to be held in two weeks time.

* The local negotiation process will continue. The city of Johannesburg will be assisted to resolve issues around representation on the part of the taxi industry so that negotiations at local level can be fast-tracked.

* The BRT sub-committee of the NJWG will move speedily to develop a national BRT framework, which will spell out clearly the role of the taxi industry in BRT projects. Such a framework will guide negotiations in all other BRT-implementing cities through lessons learnt from the City of Johannesburg.

* All stakeholders pledged their commitment to the NJWG process and agreed to resolve issues through negotiation and not through violence, intimidation or threats.

As government, we remain fully committed to implementing the BRT system in partnership with all stakeholders, especially the taxi industry. Through the NJWG, we will continue our intensive engagement with the taxi industry, civil society and other relevant stakeholders.

It is very important that Government and the Taxi Industry pursue a common agenda with full commitment and determination to provide a sustainable, effective, safe and affordable public transport system to our people and to ensure that the legacy of apartheid planning is reversed.

Government's common agenda is to ensure the empowerment of our people. The question remains: Where are Blacks, and particularly Africans, located in the mainstream economy of our country? BRT, which encompasses up to 24 hour operations, can offer a significant entry point for the current taxi industry to become one of the most powerful players in our economy. We will continue to urge the taxi industry to look at the BRT system as an upgrade of their services and take this opportunity to grow a new revenue stream.

It is important to note that the BRT system constitutes a small portion of the national public transportation system. The extent of the planned BRT is less than 170 kilometres in the four cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, which is proposed to be developed by 2010.
A further 287 kilometres is proposed to be developed by 2014, adding the cities of Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City and Durban. A further approximately 1 000 kilometres is proposed to be developed by 2025, adding the cities of Mangaung, Rustenburg and Polokwane. This amounts to a total of approximately 1 400 kilometres by 2025. This is a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of public transport operated routes in South Africa.

We are only 279 days away from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. From the experience of the Confederations Cup, we now know what is required of us in the transport sector. This is no longer theory.

Our key responsibility is to get people to the stadium safely and on time. We also need to get the fans out of the stadium back home and to the hotels in safety. Without adequate transport, there will be no fans in the stadium. Without fans inside the stadium, there is no world cup.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter gave us 7.5 out of 10 for the Confederations Cup. From an organising point of view, we have learnt specific lessons in preparation for next year. From a transport point of view, we require tight coordination between provinces and national government, between host cities and the provinces. For 2010, we will, therefore, employ a combination of the modes of transport, including rail and buses which are principally mass movers. These will be supplemented by minibus taxis, which we believe are an integral part of the public transport system. Our roll-out plan includes long distance services such as bus, rail and aviation. Our plans must be tight because we know that an estimated 40 000 England fans travelled to Germany in 2006 and more than 100 000 were from Brazil. We expect close to 500 000 fans to descend on our shores for the world cup in 2010. This figure could be more when others travel, not to see the soccer but, to see the country that hosts the soccer world cup. We have no doubt that we can do it.

Finally, we want to acknowledge the role and unqualified support of all stakeholders, all levels of government as well as organised formations in our communities in the successful launch of Rea Vaya in the city of Johannesburg.
In particular, we want to acknowledge the clarity of vision and the leadership on the part of our Cabinet, the Gauteng provincial government under the leadership of Premier Nomvula Mokoyane, Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Mr. Bheki Nkosi, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mr. Amos Masondo, City of Johannesburg MMC for Transportation Rehana Moosajee, national Department of Transport Deputy Director-General for Public Transport Mr. George Mahlalela and other government officials.

Civil society organizations also played an important role, including the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), the South African Commuters Organisation (SACO), South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), National Economic Development Labour Council (NEDLAC), Gauteng Commuters Organisation (GCO), the South African Disability Alliance (SADA), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the ANC/SACP/COSATU Alliance in Gauteng as well as support from other provinces.

Most of all, we are excited by the unwavering support this project has received from commuters. BRT is about the commuter and it has been heralded as fresh and an idea whose time has come