Lease agreement for Bfn taxi rank approved

Bloemfontein's taxi rank.

The Bloemfontein taxi rank in the Free State could soon be up and running before the year comes to a close.

This is according to the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in her report on the Intermodal Transport Facility located in the city’s central business district. Mkhwebane confirms that Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality’s long-term lease agreement with the Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association, through its entity, the Free State Taxi Association, has been approved by the municipal council after consultation with national and provincial treasury on the lease agreement.

The Public Protector states in her report that the intended date for occupation of the taxi rank is December 2018. There is no mention of a specific day for this. OFM News reported previously that the municipality needs R80 million to renovate this facility. Despite this, the rank could be up and running after more than seven years since it was first completed. It has been reported mere weeks after the municipality opened the facility in 2011, that taxi operator boycotted the building citing several structural issues. These issues included a narrow pathway, as well as congestion at the exit, which was exacerbated by these narrow pathways.

The facility has been marred by numerous allegations of maladministration. In June this year, the EFF in the province alleged that proper procedures were not followed ahead of the project being carried out in 2008, with only one taxi association – namely the Free State Taxi Association under Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association – benefiting from the said project. OFM News spoke to the Chairperson of The Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association, Leemisa Seloane, at the Free State leg of the Competition Commission’s Market Inquiry into land-based transport at Ilanga Estate in August, and he said that all the taxi operators in the area fall under their association, nullifying the EFF’s allegations that their entity is the only one that benefited from the project and other taxi groups were not considered for the project. “Who are the others?” he asked at the time.

In Mkhwebane’s long-awaited report, it is said that documentation and attendance registers which indicate that consultations were carried out with various stakeholders, were provided to her office as evidence. These stakeholders included the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the province, Motheo Region Taxi Council, the Free State Provincial Taxi Council, and the aforementioned taxi associations.

The report came out in favour of Mangaung Metro, stating that there is no evidence of maladministration on the part of the municipality regarding the construction of the facility. The investigation into the facility dates back to 2012, when Mkhwebane’s predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, was at the helm. The complaint was lodged by a Mr MI Liphoko on 30 July 2012 in which he alleged that the municipality was allocated about R400 million for the facility by the National Department of Transport, of which only R40 million had been accounted for. The complainant alleged that the municipality inflated the price of the taxi rank when it only used R40 million and pocketed the difference. Mkhwebane says Liphoko did not provide evidence for his assertions.

The report further absolves the municipality of undue delay in completing the taxi tank which was meant to be up and running by 2010 for the FIFA World Cup but ended up only being completed a year later. Mkhwebane implies that the delay was due to the extensive consultation between all the various stakeholders being mostly taxi associations during the planning and approval of each phase. This is despite the infrastructural issues that were identified regarding the facility as well as the replacement of stolen copper cables in 2012 which had rendered the building non-compliant for electrical installation.

Olebogeng Motse / OFM News