Dirk Gallop was forced to sell his metered taxi operating license for R27 000 because he could not afford to upgrade his vehicle to a model under ten years old, which is a new standard set by the privately owned Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town where Gallop plies his business.
The 56-year-old husband and father to two children made a living operating a metered taxi at the (V&A) Waterfront rank for 14-years but now was risking his house being repossessed by the bank as he is now effectively unemployed as he had not managed to get financing for a newer car.
“At my age I was unable to get a new car…and the bank did not even help. I’m also going to lose my house now…I can’t afford to pay the bond,” said Gallop, who lives in Ravensmead.
Seven of the 55 metered taxi operators who worked at the Waterfront had to sell their licensed, said Western Cape Metered Taxi Council chairperson Clive Adams.
Adams said the deadline to upgrade to cars less than 10-years-old was in November last year, but was extended to December.
For those who had managed the upgrade, business had improved “tremendously”, he said.
He said the taxi drivers now made between R500 and R1500 a day as compared to the R500 a day they made with their older cars.
“We can’t even cope with customers. We are even asking metered taxi operators from elsewhere to come help us,” he said.
Most customers came from the V&A Waterfront’s surrounding Hotels and Guest Houses.
V&A Waterfront communications manager, Carla White said the V&A Waterfront had started negotiating with the meter taxi operators in 2008 as there were many illegal operators at the Waterfront rank and there were in excess of 120 taxis operating there.
“We could not accommodate all these taxis,” said White.
White said the metered sedan taxis had been granted ranking privileges through a licensing process that started in 2009 in conjunction with the Western Cape Metered Taxi Council (WCMTC) and the City of Cape Town, contracts were signed in 2010 and permits to rank at the V&A Waterfront were granted to selected operators.
This was a small business development initiative, with limited permits issued to individual operators, she said.
“One of the contractual obligations was the replacement of vehicles older than 10 years. Five-year contracts were concluded, and in line with the Transport Board, the operators could present their permits to obtain financing for vehicle upgrades,” said White.
She said in August last year 2012 the V&A Waterfront warned operators who did not comply with the 10-year-old vehicle rule that they needed to replace their vehicles.
“Many vehicles inspected were found to be in extremely poor condition and the deadline to replace vehicles, or prove that the process was underway, was 30 September 2012,” she said.
She said the deadline was extended to December which was adhered to.
“A critical part of maintaining world-class standards for both local and international visitors is the high standard of metered taxis made available for visitors. Their safety is paramount and we need to ensure that any services provided match the standards required.”
Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said the V&A Waterfront laid down standards which the meter taxi’s operating there had to adhere to.
“A number of metered taxi’s (at the V&A Waterfront) were in atrocious condition…the most common thing was that they were too old, their meters did not work and in some cases there were holes in the floor and the suspension was very bad,” said Carlisle. – Peter Luhanga