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Deal breathes life into ‘white elephant’

GROUND-BREAKING DEAL…Mangaung Executive Mayor, Olly Mlamleli (In floral outfit), and Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association (GBTA) chairperson, Seloana Leemisa (left) append their signatures to the lease agreement for the Intermodal Public Transport Facility at Bram Fischer Building, Bloemfontein. Looking on are MMM Speaker, Mxolisi Siyonzana and MMC Human Settlements, Gladys Thipenyane (extreme right)                                PIC: New Trends Media

By Chamu Wilson

The Intermodal Public Transport Facility (IPTF) situated in downtown Bloemfontein which has been the subject of much discussion since its completion in 2010 will soon be expected to contribute meaningfully to the economy of Mangaung.

This follows the official signing of an agreement that will see the Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association (GBTA) leasing the facility from the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (MMM) for an initial period of 30years with an option to renew the agreement for another 30years.

Speaking after the official signing function at Bram Fischer Building in Bloemfontein, the Executive Mayor, Sarah Olly Mlamleli, described the non-functioning of the IPTF as a thorn in her flesh.

“The reference of this Intermodal Public Transport Facility by many as a white elephant has been a thorn in my flesh since my inauguration. I considered this expression, ‘white elephant’, as derogative to all who made the taxi rank development a reality. This facility is one of the greatest infrastructure investments in our city and the taxi industry in particular,” Mlamleli said.

The Intermodal Public Transport Facility in downtown Bloemfontein

According to the mayor, since the completion of the facility, efforts have been continuously made to engage with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that it becomes functional. Such efforts eventually culminated in the signing of the lease agreement with the taxi industry.

“Effective implementation of this agreement will ease traffic congestion in our CBD, especially around the taxi rank area. In recent years for example, it has been difficult to refer a visitor in our city with certainty the actual spot where to find a taxi to the envisaged destination. Taxi ranks, due to high numbers of commuters, are generally perceived to be hives that gather a lot of litter, waste and, in certain areas, antisocial behaviour. We have full confidence in our partnership with the taxi industry and other stakeholders that this public asset will maintain its opulence, tidiness while ensuring that it becomes a safe and reliable contributor to the economy of our city.”

Mlamleli expressed the hope that the taxi industry will speedily undertake the necessary renovations to the structure and put it to use in the shortest possible period. Initial projections are that the renovations are likely to take nine months to complete.

Speaking at the same occasion, the president of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), Phillip Taaibosch, said the taxi industry was not looking to be subsidized by government.

“We don’t want anybody to subsidize us at all. What we want is for government to subsidize commuters. Today we have witnessed an arm of government that has said to us, we want to support you and we are grateful for that. As taxi operators, we are mindful of the fact this facility will only be the limelight if we manage it professionally. I encourage the GBTA to think of engaging a board that will manage it on their behalf,” said Taaibosch.

The chairperson of the Greater Bloemfontein Taxi Association, Seloana Leemisa, said his association was grateful for this economic empowerment opportunity that they have been afforded by municipality.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a changed mind. As a taxi association, we believe the only way to economically emancipate us is by letting us involved in economic ventures. This is exactly what this agreement seeks to do and we promise to do everything in our power to make it a success,” Leemisa said.

Both parties in the lease agreement for the IPTF agreed that the process to thrash an agreement was a difficult one which broke down several times as parties could not agree but continued to work until a deal was finally made.

Allegations of corruption have in the past been levelled against the local authority with some alleging that money was misappropriated in the construction of the facility prompting the Public Protector to investigate the claims. However, the Public Protector found no evidence of corruption in the corruption of the structure.

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