The South African BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 31st of August. The BRT system which is called “Rea Vaya” is being put in as part of the transportation plans for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.
However, the system is facing opposition from the taxi industry (mini buses). Traditionally, taxis have largely met the demands for transport in South Africa. The industry developed during Apartheid, and exists outside of the formal economy.
The taxi industry feels that the BRT threatens their business, and protests against the new system started many months ago. In march of this year, several highways were closed down by drivers blocking the entire highway refusing to move.
Reactions to the taxi rivalry
In this post we will cover some view points and reports by bloggers.
Road Safety Blog reports:
The taxi industry had tried an eleventh hour court application to the High Court in Pretoria on Friday to prevent the launch of the BRT, but the judge did not give them the go-ahead for an urgent interdict to stop the buses.
But taxi operators say government has developed BRT on routes taxis took decades to develop, threatening their livelihoods.
Ndebele said the national joint working group on the project would continue to talk with the taxi industry in efforts to draw up a memorandum of agreement.
“Everything we do in public transport must ultimately benefit the commuter,” he said.
Zapiro a South African political cartoonist who always manages to capture the essence of a situation, drew this:
Malocoda feels the BRT implementation is just another example of broken promises by government he writes:
We are seeing a few, not surprising, broken promises from the King Chameleon.
How about the Taxi drivers, they firmly believed they would be accommodated within BRT System. Doesn’t seem too much chance of that now, does it?
Ruth at Believer writes about her experience using the BRT on the first day:
Trying to get to work this morning was a mission. Think more than one hundred people trying to fit in a single decker bus, mission impossible. So one had to settle with standing and sometimes hanging in between butts, while one passenger was trying to get through the door.
Gunfire and recklessness
The first few days of the launch of the bus system was marred by a drive-by shooting in which occupants of a taxi, shot and wounded two people who were riding a bus in Soweto.
Lefty writes about the incident:
Now I read in the news today (Link) that certain taxi drivers are not exactly satisfied with the new BRT system. So dissatisfied indeed, that they have shot 2 people. One of whom, if I understand correctly, was a cop.
Further, he writes:
But how can you justify shooting at folks in order to make an objection? I am 100% in favour of BRT, it's gonna benefit all of the people (except the taxi drivers, of course).
And to Mr John Q Taxi Driver, you murdered a girl on her way to school earlier this year. You mutilated a student. You endanger my life every single day with your reckless driving and your blatant disregard for the law. You sir, please take your Fritos and get the fuck off of my roads. If you're looking for sympathy, you may find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.
Charles takes a look at some of the problems in the industry, he writes
Is it about taxi drivers losing their jobs or taxi bosses losing some revenue? From my outside view of the industry, it does not look very healthy at all. If we look at the physical conditions of many of these vehicles it seems safe to say that the maximum amount of profit is extracted from the industry without any serious concern for the safety of the cash cows. If we look at the over-utilisation of capacity we can infer that the actual comfort of the passengers never really features in any decision process. From my point of view this looks like gaps or otherwise known as opportunities, in the market
Is it really acceptable for a certain group to claim ownership of an industry or a part of an industry to the exclusion of everybody else? Where does this sense of entitlement come from?
They threaten to hold communities, industry and government at ransom.
Commuters have been waiting for the BRT system for many years and no role-player or stakeholder can claim ignorance of the plans to implement this system. It has been 10 years or so now that commuters are waiting for the BRT and if the taxi industry is still unready, they will never be ready as long as their unreadiness would prevent the system’s implementation.
The main players of the taxi industry are street-wise and well informed with regard to legal processes. If they truly believe that their rights are impinged upon they have both the money and other resources to access court to enforce their rights…but a can of worms of such magnitude will be opened up that most do not want to go this route.
They prefer intimidation.
The situation is entirely intolerable.