By Anna Cox, Thabo Modisha and Mziwandile Nkosi
Three thousand minibus taxi drivers representing various associations across Gauteng are being trained for the Fifa Confederations Cup.
Eric Motshwane, chairperson of the Greater Johannesburg Regional Taxi Association, said the industry was ready for the tournament.
"We are pleased with the process. It was very inclusive and everyone is happy. On Tuesday we met Gauteng provincial government to discuss drop-off points for visitors," he said.
Drivers are currently being trained in customer care and first aid, he said.
Motshwane said he heard that the City of Joburg was considering an "events service" for the Confed Cup, using the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, but he said the taxi industry was not, at this stage, involved.
Meanwhile, the council is keeping mum on how it intends to run the BRT system.
City of Joburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said finality had been reached.
National Department of Transport spokesperson Logan Maistry said Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele had already met the taxi industry to discuss further consultation. "Both parties are committed to negotiations," he said.
However, Maistry said he could not pre-empt the setting up of operational companies and the training and retraining of drivers and security workers in just a few weeks.
Meanwhile, about 2 000 members of the Gauteng National Taxi Alliance (GNTA) threatened mass action after they were left out of BRT talks before the April elections.
GNTA general secretary Alpheus Mlalazi said the government had promised to build a framework to address taxi operators' concerns, but had continued with the project without consulting taxi organisations.
A taxi owner who called himself "Julius Malema" said that if a solution was not found soon, the matter would be taken to the streets in protest.
"That's the only language the government understands," he said.
"The BRT cannot be implemented without our participation," said Mlalazi.
GNTA leaders were also not spared a tongue lashing by members who accused them of neglecting the negotiations at a crucial stage.
Taxi owner Leadman Dyubele said: "We just don't know what BRT means for taxi operators, whether it will take our jobs or not. Our leaders have not used their power on the negotiating table and we have fallen behind with the talks."
Mlalazi added: "We simply can't shoot in the dark anymore because the government has acted in bad faith with BRT. It is important that the government at least entice us about what is good with BRT," said Dyubele.
BRT spokesperson Megan Cameron said they could not comment until a directive was given at national level.
This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on May 27, 2009