PRETORIA, The government and the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) have reached an agreement to put the planned taxi industry strike scheduled for Wednesday on hold, says Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi.

The strike was put on hold to allow for further engagement on issues which SANTACO brought to the attention of the government, Maswanganyi told the media in a joint briefing with SANTACO here Sunday.

Both the government and SANTACO agreed to work together to confront the challenges which the taxi industry continues to experience on a daily basis, as clearly articulated during the meeting which the Ministry of Transport had with SANTACO on Friday.

The meeting was held as part of the commitment we made as the government that we will meet with the transport industry role players, including the taxi industry, the rail sector as well as bus operators to discuss the transformation of this important economic industry, which is the cornerstone of economic development, said the Minister.

The two sides agreed to address issues relating to the taxi subsidy, operating licences and access to finance. Committees, which include representatives of SANTACO and the national and provincial governments, will be set up to deal with these issues.

The National Household Travel Survey indicates that taxis are the most preferred mode of transport, accounting for more than 68 per cent of the daily commuting public. This, Maswanganyi said, means the taxi industry remains the most important mode of transport.

It is therefore inevitable that the issue of the subsidy of the industry needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We have noted the need to address backlogs at Provincial Regulatory Entities which deal with operating licences. On the operating licences, government has been able to provide legislative requirements to ensure that taxi operations are confined to a specific area, as opposed to the previous radius based operations.

The Minister said the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme, which is currently under review, will be presented to Cabinet this year.

With regards to access to finance, the Minister said government notes the frustration that the taxi industry is experiencing. He said the taxi industry is charged exorbitant interest rates when buying new vehicles.

To this end, we are going to involve other government departments, including Treasury and its agencies to explore other possible funding mechanisms. As the government, we are indeed upbeat that working together with the taxi industry we will make sure that we transform this industry into a modern, technology savvy and safe mode of public transport that will become a choice for the young and old, said Maswanganyi.

The Minister urged the taxi industry to unite against violence and any form of anarchy and criminality in the taxi industry.

We call upon the industry to take a stance and expose those few individuals inclined to derailing the country from a good course of providing an affordable, accessible, safe and sustainable taxi industry. United we can fight the scourge of these atrocities.