'The more things change, the more they stay the same.' That applies not only to the conflict-prone taxi industry in the Western Cape over the past 27 years, but also nationally. The taxi recapitalisation programme -- meant to regulate South Africa's main people-moving industry and introduced 22 years ago -- remains, well, a work in progress.
How did we get here?
In 1987 deregulation hit the taxi industry. A decade earlier, the 1977 Van Breda commission of inquiry into the Road Transportation Bill decided South Africa had reached "a stage of economic and industrial development which enabled it to move towards a freer competition in transportation".
Before that, the 1930 Motor Carrier Transportation Act required permits through the Local Road Transportation Board. Apartheid, and particularly the dompas influx control system, meant virtually no black operators qualified for these permits.
"The system meant that over 90% of taxi permit applications by blacks were rejected. Under such circumstances, most black taxi operators operated illegally using private saloon vehicles as taxis," wrote Makubetse Sekhonyane and Jackie Dugard in the December 2004 SA Crime Quarterly.
A White Paper, alongside the 1988 Transport Deregulation Act, effectively introduced the 16-seaters that today remain the mainstay of...