The proponents of the ill-conceived Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and baffling Taxi Recapitalisation schemes swear that their conspiring is in the national interest. They take advantage of disintegrated and poor planned public transport system that mushroomed overtime, to pursue their questionable agenda. The intention of these two programs is nothing but a concerted dubious effort to destroy the only authentic African dominated business sector.
It is fascinating that the neo-colonial government in South Africa is angered by African success, outside their blessing, in the same way settler colonial regime was. It is because of this anger that these schemes continue the same disruptive practices of the previous settler colonial regime which used railway police during the seventies, traffic police in the eighties and third force driven taxi violence of the nineties to frustrate the taxi industry. The metro police in this decade have solo focus of stopping taxi vehicles while corporate busses remain untouched even when they are responsible for gruesome accidents on national roads.
The class conflict between independent traders on one side and the alliance of aspiring African middle class and imperialist corporations on the other is clearly evident. We are told that capitalism and associated theories promote competition and competitiveness whereas in practice it produces inefficient monopolies. The corporate transport companies and state owned companies have been unsuccessful in competing with flexible and price competitive taxi associations. These highly innovative transport cooperatives have, over the decades, done the unexpected…successfully beating highly state funded private bus corporations and heavy handed rail commuter operator in market share. The captains of these outsmarted industries are resorting to state regulation and inflated funding to crush competition while hiding behind bookish ideas of government. Capitalists are quick to claim intellectual property rights and yet quick to dispel same rights of the taxi industry over the taxi route design.
It is clear that government officials are eying big salaries, glamorous career positions in BRT entities and hefty kick-backs from suppliers hence the aggression of the so called ‘new’ government to hastily implement BRT in sharp contrast to claims of listening to people’s concerns. It is concerning that the government does not display the same zeal, shown in pushing BRT, when it comes to delivery of basic services.
The commercial viability of BRT was not interrogated, public participation was intentionally stifled and the role of the taxi cooperatives remains ambiguous. BRT crisis presents the same experience the taxi industry faced with the Taxi Recapitalisation where you had government officials who want to be sole decision makers on the supply of new vehicles thus cajoling automotive companies bid to individuals for vehicles to be on the list of acceptable providers. This corruption led to the widely reported taxi owners’ complaints about Chinese, Indian and Russian inferior vehicles introduced with the Taxi Recapitalisation scheme.
The Ministry of Transport and government clearly have their priorities upside down. The design of its industrial development scheme and other policies are based on impressing tourists, investors, football administrators, foreign soccer world cup spectators and everyone else except the African citizens. It is clear that the BRT is not driven by the technical design imperative of properly managed public transport system. It is driven by showing off and day light robbery hence mindless replica of Chinese and Mexican public transport designs.
The taxi industry must continue to aggressively safeguard its interests. The engineering profession must throw its weight on excellent design and deployment of public systems. The public demand government accountability with intense attention to its interest and utilisation of state resources.
By Sbusiso Xaba