Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The Department of Transport says Uber operators need to get properly licensed and apply for operating permits.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria on Monday‚ Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said by licensing Uber operators, they would have a specific route or radius in which they would operate.

"If you have a permit you are given a specific route‚ you do not operate everywhere‚" he said.

Maswanganyi said meter-taxi operators had complained that Uber operators were not licensed and did not pay for any permits.

He said the conflict has resulted in Uber drivers being attacked and their vehicles torched. Licensing Uber operators would also help them insure their vehicles for commercial use.

In his opening speech to delegates‚ Maswanganyi said scientists could help his department solve challenges in the taxi industry, and that the transport sector had to move with the times.

"The taxi industry does not want Uber. I said to them‚ ‘Why don’t you digitalise your industry?’ We can’t resist change; we have to move with it."

He challenged the transport community to find solutions.

"The issue is technology. Young people like technology‚ and we need a South African solution. Assist us to bring the meter-taxi business into a new era‚" he pleaded.

Maswanganyi said he understood the issues raised by the taxi industry and called on taxi financiers to provide better deals.

He lamented that it was cheaper to finance an E-Class Mercedes-Benz than a minibus taxi‚ saying the interest rate was 28%.

"That is exploitation‚" he said. He said the minibus taxi industry transported 68% of commuters but was not subsidised, while government was paying bus operators subsidies‚ yet some operators were not using their buses on agreed routes.

"We need to subsidise transport users‚ not operators‚" he said.

According to the Department of Transport‚ the minibus taxi industry spends R39bn on fuel‚ R7bn on vehicles and R2.4bn on insurance‚ annually.

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