South African “Taxi War”

It’s not a case of road rage. It is a real war that claimed the lives of thousands of real, innocent people. It involved hit men, Molotov cocktails, assault rifles and corrupt fat cats vying for routes.

This violent war resulted from poor or lack of oversight of the taxi industry as well as corrupt government officials. Yet two reports review how the taxi industry has helped alleviate poverty for some black South Africans even as violence continued. That may all come to an end soon.
It’s not a case of road rage. It is a real war that claimed the lives of thousands of real, innocent people. It involved hit men, Molotov cocktails, assault rifles and corrupt fat cats vying for routes.

This violent war resulted from poor or lack of oversight of the taxi industry as well as corrupt government officials. Yet two reports review how the taxi industry has helped alleviate poverty for some black South Africans even as violence continued. That may all come to an end soon.
Taxing Alternatives: Poverty Alleviation and the South African Taxi/Minibus Industry” argues that driving regular and 16-seat minibus taxis has been a great source of income for many drivers. Yet the government’s poorly conceived Taxi Recapitalization Programme [TRP] will do little to stop the turf battles. In fact, author Karol Boudreaux argues, T.R.P. will increase fares, put small entrepreneurs out of business and prolong the taxi war.

The World Bank’s Urban Transport Thematic Group has surveyed the taxi industry’s impact on the national economy. And there is an economic theory behind the taxi markets!

The most detailed account South Africa’s taxi war comes from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. The 2001 study blames rapid deregulation, political destabilization, corruption, mafia-like taxi associations and a weak criminal justice system for the violence.

Analyst Colleen McCaul’s “No Easy Ride: The Rise and Future of the Black Taxi Industry” (126 pages, South African Institute of Race Relations) remains one of the few books that explores the violent taxi industry in depth.

The future of the South African taxi industry looks very murky. Transportation Ministry spokesman Collen Msibi claimed commitment and tons of money being thrown at public transportation might be able to handle the World Cup traffic.

But is it sufficient to overcome the post-apartheid culture of violence?

The South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC] puts the “Crime/Justice” category at the top of its country news section.

Look at these recent headlines:

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