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New career route for taxi operators

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Wits School of Governance offers certificate for public transport operators

The majority of South Africans rely on public taxi services to commute on a daily basis. Governance of this vital informal sector, however, has been lacking. The City of Johannesburg has taken the initiative to get taxi associations’ members educated on issues of policy and governance by teaming up with the Wits School of Governance (WSG) to offer a Certificate in Public Transport Governance and Operations Management.

Wits School of Governance entrance

This course was launched on 11 December 2016. Over 100 participants from 11 different taxi associations enrolled for the 25-week course.

This programme was designed to contribute to the critical transformation imperative within the transport sector in the City of Johannesburg, namely the need to build the capacity of mini-bus operators to become part of the sustainable public transport sector.

The classes focused on leadership development of the key taxi industry operators. Participants were taken through the development of strategic concepts, skills and competencies related to leadership, governance, planning, change management and stakeholder management.

Peter Mabe, Chairperson of the Dobsonville, Roodepoort, Leratong Johannesburg Taxi Association, which has 1 500 members and 3 100 taxis in operation, said this course was long overdue. “I found this course very productive. I believe this is an industry that needs to be regulated,” said Mabe.

He stressed that it was important for black South Africans to “move from just being consumers to owners”.

Mabe said more modules that focused on leadership and organisational management were needed.

“We are learning about our rights to complain and the forums in which to do this. We learn about social responsibility, which I find very interesting,” Mabe said.

Mabe was surprised to find out that taxi associations already have activities that constitute social responsibility. “We provide free transport to bereaved families and give bursaries where we can,” he added.

Mabe said another important part of this course was learning about the laws related to his work.

The course also seeks to improve the participants’ entrepreneurial effectiveness.

WSG Head Professor David Everatt said the School was extremely proud to be running the certificate course for taxi associations in Johannesburg. “We recognise the need for skills in computing, critical thinking and knowledge about policy, governance, urban transport and the like.

“The course was designed at the request of the City in order to equip members of taxi associations to transition into bus operators, supporting Rea Vaya rather than seeing it as a threat,” added Everatt.

“We want to ensure that taxi operators are better able to negotiate, knowing the rules of the game (governance), and have a better understanding of the role of mass transit in a sustainable urban transport network. WSG is proud to be running a course that seems to be working so well that the students are demanding more and more lectures.”

The Executive Director of Education, Dr Manamela Matshabaphala, who also facilitated some modules, said this course was an eye-opener. “Through our interactions with the course participants, we got a glimpse into the world of taxi operators.

“This seems to have had a transformative impact on the participants. It is clear from our conversations in class that there is a mind shift in relation to the organisational culture in the industry. It has been a riveting experience,” said Matshabaphala.

Sharon Manwadu, Head of Labour at the South African Taxi Council (SANTACO), said most of the members wanted to study further.

She added that SANTACO had introduced health, lifestyle and HIV/AIDS awareness drives and was conducting arranged sessions for breast cancer awareness and screening. 

“This course has proven to be critical to its intended target, namely the taxi operators/owners. They have gained a wide range of knowledge,” said Dr Pandelani Thomas Mathoma, academic champion for this course. “With the knowledge gained from the course, the operators have been equipped with the necessary insight to manage their own affairs,” he added.

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