President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that the government was convening a National Taxi Lekgotla to chart the course towards a more efficient sector.
This platform brings together the government, civil society and industry stakeholders and comes on the back of provincial makgotla in most provinces, Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter.
The lekgotla will seek common ground on existing business models, safety and compliance, broader economic empowerment of operators and the issue of subsidies for taxis. It will also look at how to end the conflict and violence that plagues the industry because of route competition.
As part of the programme to build a new economy, we are working with all stakeholders to improve the state of public transport. This is necessary if we are to expand manufacturing, increase local production, stimulate small business activity and create more job opportunities.
Improving transport infrastructure is essential
"A well-functioning transport system has the additional benefit of alleviating road congestion and reducing travel times, energy consumption and air pollution. That is why we are going to invest in transport infrastructure systems that will carry people safely and in a manner that will contribute to economic growth.
"The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan I announced earlier this month acknowledges that improving transport infrastructure is central to economic growth and expanding industrial activity. As part of our plan, we have embarked on projects to modernise and refurbish commuter rail networks alongside the expansion of road rehabilitation and maintenance programmes.
"Upgraded transportation infrastructure coupled with improved public transport is a key driver of economic activity. Similarly, resolving the challenges facing a sector as important as the taxi industry is an important step towards transforming the public transport landscape," he added.
Ramaphosa noted that around two thirds of households that use minibus taxis. A quarter travel by bus and 10% by train.
But, he said, public transport continues to be plagued by challenges; some are the legacy of apartheid development, but many are contemporary and persistent.
Many people's experiences are negative
"Many of our people's experiences with public transport are not positive. Those reliant on trains have to contend with daily delays, disruptions and prolonged closures of essential lines.
"Furthermore, rail infrastructure in most cities only covers older parts of cities and has not kept up with new city development. Unroadworthy vehicles, unsafe driving, speeding, overloading and other practices are persistent problems in the taxi industry. Many people fall victim to crime on trains, taxis and buses."
Ramaphosa said public transport was expensive. More than two thirds of households with the lowest income spend more than 20% of their monthly household income on public transport.
"Since taxis are the primary means of public transit for people across all provinces, we are giving urgent attention to the problems in the industry.
"A formalised, well-managed, better regulated minibus taxi system is in the best interests of not just those who use taxis daily. It is also in the interest of the development and progress of the entire society," Ramaphosa said.