Taxis and taxes and never the twain shall meet

Ideas

Taxis and taxes and never the twain shall meet

If the taxi industry wants government to help subsidise it, it needs to become a more legitimate, lawful entity

Executive editor: opinions and analysis

In a utopia far removed from the South African reality, minibus taxis are the ideal model of entrepreneurship and small-scale financial empowerment.

In that reality, minibus taxis are owned by individual drivers who have either acquired them through years of toil and saving, or through debt provided either by the financial services sector or state agencies. Because they are owner/drivers, they value their assets. They keep their vehicles in pristine condition, drive safely and respect the passenger as a customer. They run registered operations, have bank accounts in which they deposit their takings, are registered for tax and make contributions towards other protections that include workmen’s compensation and unemployment insurance. Those who employ drivers pay them a decent wage, respect labour laws and do not overwork them.

We sadly don’t live in an utopia. We live in a country where the industry is a law unto itself. Taxis are driven recklessly; drivers have no respect for their own passengers, break the rules of the road with impunity and often disputes are settled with violence. The drivers are always grumpy because many put in 12 to 16 hour shifts, for little pay and not enough opportunity to rest. Big men, whose bosses own thousands of vehicles, often operate in the shadows, collecting takings from drivers without regular maintenance of the assets that make them super rich. They hide their cash under the mattress instead of in legal bank accounts where they can be audited and held liable for tax. Feared taxi bosses employ hitmen to silence rivals, instead of settling differences diplomatically by working out ways to amicably share this lucrative pie...

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