South African scientists can help the Department of Transport solve a number of challenges in the taxi industry. This is according to Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi, who provided the opening address on day one of the 2017 Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria.
Referring to the recent minibus taxi strike, the Minister said the transport sector had to move with the times. “The taxi industry does not want Uber. I said to them, ‘Why don’t you digitalise your industry’? We can’t resist change; we have to move with it.” Minister Maswanganyi challenged the transport community to find solutions. “The issue is technology. Young people like technology, and we need a South African solution. Assist us to bring the metered taxi business into a new era,” he pleaded.
The Minister said he understood the issues raised by the taxi industry and called on taxi financiers to provide better deals. “It is cheaper to finance an E-Class Mercedes-Benz than a minibus taxi. The interest rate is 28%. That is exploitation,” he said. He noted the minibus taxi industry moved 68% of South African public transport users daily, but is not subsidised. At the same time, the government was paying bus operators subsidies, yet some operators were not using their buses on agreed routes. “We need to subsidise transport users, not operators,” he stated.
According to the Department of Transport, the minibus taxi industry spends R39 billion on fuel, R7 billion on vehicles and R2.4 billion on insurance, annually.
More questions than answers
The Minister said the country needed government entities to spend less time in the courts and more time focusing on what he called ‘real issues’. “State and government entities must focus on their mandates and keep out of politics. We must have a deliberate programme to empower the majority. “Who is going to benefit from the Gautrain expansion? Who is benefitting from the manufacture of Gautrain locomotives? We have the infrastructure in Gauteng. We can only create jobs by manufacturing here,” he said.
“We can’t talk about the transport economy if it excludes the majority, the youth, females and those with disabilities. R58 billion is currently being spent on administration. Who are the beneficiaries of this? Are Africans, who are in the majority, benefitting from this,” he questioned. The Minister said what was needed was inclusive growth. “Stability will come as a result, but this cannot occur if people do not have access to the economy.” He further questioned who it was that would benefit from Operation Phakisa as well as various industrialisation programmes currently taking place in the transport sector.
He added that the road construction sector needed to be transformed to include youth and women. “It must be aligned with public entities.” Minister Maswanganyi reminded delegates that the country was going to build 580 trains in Nigel, which would ensure people reached their destinations on time, while creating 8 000 jobs.
Casting his gaze towards road safety, the Minister indicated that roads on the Moloto Corridor were being widened by SANRAL. “This is the solution to a problem the country has had for many years.” Concluding, the Minister said the biggest challenge in transport lay in finding a solution that worked for all parties.
The Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) is taking place from 10 – 13 July. Over 600 delegates are expected to gather over the four days to discuss topics around rural transport, infrastructure, aviation, freight and logistics and infrastructure development. The Minister of Transport is the Patron of the event and the event is supported by the US-based Transportation Research Board (TRB).
SATC is supported by both the South African Department of Transport (NDoT) and the US-based Transportation Research Board (TRB). The conference will continue until Thursday, 13 July 2017.