The City of Cape Town paid hundreds of millions of rand to taxi drivers to get them to make way for MyCiTi buses in Table View, but some say it was money wasted because the taxis are flourishing at the expense of the bus system.
The issue came up at a recent public meeting in Table View, where mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said a lack of police enforcement was one of the reasons for traffic violations by taxis.
Ms Purchase said some police officers were taxi owners themselves and did not enforce the law because they had a finger in the pie.
But there were murmurs of disagreement from those at the meeting. Table View resident Schulla Pronk said the taxi industry appeared to be flourishing in the area, despite the City having spent about R600 million on a recapitalisation programme to remove them from the area ahead of the introduction of MyCiTi.
She handed Ms Purchase a dossier filled with, among other things, sub-council notes about the introduction of the MyCiTi project in Table View, pictures she had taken of taxis breaking the law as well as data she had captured of the number of passengers riding in MyCiTi buses compared to the numbers riding in taxis.
Buses were not running near their full capacity whereas taxis were overloaded, she said.
Part of Ms Pronk’s paperwork included a statement released by the City in 2015 by Mayco member for transport at the time, Brett Herron, who said: “If there is evidence that confirms that a vehicle belongs to a minibus taxi operator who has been compensated by the city, Transport for Cape Town will institute a civil claim for the breach of the compensation agreement, which is a binding contract”.
Ms Pronk said there were many taxis that had been bought out by the City which were still operating in the area. She said she had taken pictures of these taxis’ number plates and given them to the City but nothing had been done.
The recapitalisation had been done to ensure the profitability of the MyCTi bus service, but Ms Pronk said MyCiTi was running at a massive loss.
“As taxpayers, we are all subsidising the buses,” she said.
Ms Purchase told Tabletalk that MyCiTi’s subsidy was “ in line with the extent of subsidies on many other public transport systems.”
Those systems, she said, were vital in South African cities “where commuting distances are long and people captive to public transport – often lower income earners”.
She said it was a “misconception” that taxis would disappear after the introduction of the MyCiTi service. The system allowed for rail, bus and taxi services, she said.
“It would be nice to have buses everywhere, but we actually just cannot afford it,” she said.
Ms Purchase said the City only removed taxis with origin points in Dunoon, Joe Slovo, Maitland and Koeberg to Table View and surrounds.
“Thus, there would be minibus-taxis operating to and from these destinations and Table View which, in part, explains why there will still be taxis operating in this area.
“Also, the City is aware that there are an influx of illegal taxis from areas such as Dunoon, Joe Slovo, Maitland and Atlantis to the Table View areas. The City is continuing to monitor these illegal activities, and the City’s enforcement agencies have regular traffic enforcement blitzes where illegal taxis are impounded,” she said.
Agi Orfanos, who was also at the meeting, said he remembered attending a City meeting around 2008 ahead of MyCiTi being introduced.
“I remember them boasting about how they were going to do away with taxis in the area completely. I even remember them saying that taxis coming from areas like Mitchell’s Plain would have to stop where MyCiTi began and that those passengers would have to use MyCiTi,” said Mr Orfanos.
He said it was misleading for Ms Purchase to say it was a misconception and said that she needed to familiarise herself with the area and the MyCiTi project more.
Ms Purchase did not respond when asked if she had read through Ms Pronk’s file.