By Mzukona Mantshontsho
October was Transport Month in South Africa. Cosmo City has been around for over 15 years. This for me is a time of reflection for the community of what has worked well, what has not and what we can learn from that to improve the community. The journey has had its challenging times.
There have been concerns around the non-use of an official R15 million taxi rank because of its location in the community. A Randburg United Local and Long-Distance Taxi Association (RULLDTA) representative on Thursday 15 September 2011 when the taxi rank was handed-over to the community promised that commuters would be collected in the mornings from all extensions and sent to official taxi rank for FREE. That has never happened. Residents that stay far away from the make-shift taxi ranks in the community have to pay to get to the taxi rank before paying for their intended destination, which is normally work in the mornings.
Within the same official taxi rank is 40 informal trader stalls which the residents could be using to earn a living and support their families, sadly those stalls are all not being used. This begs the question, how long is the status quo going to go on for, nine years down the line of the handing-over of the R15 million facility.
The Cosmo City Development is the first public private partnership worth R3.5billion between the City of Johannesburg, Basil Read, Codevco as well as the community in South Africa.
Cosmo City emerged out of an urgent need to provide accommodation for the informal settlers of Zeverfontein and Riverbend who had been illegally occupying privately owned land 25 kilometres North West of the Johannesburg Central Business District.
Cosmo City continues to grow as a place of choice and as a community. That number has increased substantially over the years with backrooms being built, mostly in the RDP houses, now with the semi-financed houses and bonded ones. The recent developments and job opportunities in Cosmo City have created an influx into the area, which cannot be avoided.
The Under-Utilisation of a R15 million taxi rank
When one looks at the official premises of a Taxi Rank in Cosmo City, one cannot help wondering what will happen to the under-utilised R15million taxi rank.
The taxi rank in question is at the corner of United States of America Drive and South Africa Drive next to the Shoprite Checkers Mall, was complete in June 2009 by the City of Johannesburg, and only handed over to the community by Transport MMC Rehana Moosajee on Thursday 15 September 2011.
The opening of the taxi rank only happened after many interventions between the MMC who requested a joint venture between the Alexandra Taxi Association, the Randburg United Local and Long-Distance Association, and the Alexandra-Midrand Taxi Association that resulted in the formation of a Taxi Management Committee that would make the taxi rank work for the benefit of commuters, according to then ANC Ward 100 Councillor Annacletta Nonny Raphatha.
The delays were as a result of intense negotiations and arbitrations that took place between the taxi associations involved. The negotiations were very delicate especially considering the violence associated and took place for a few days around August 2010, leaving commuters stranded at times. Commuters for over the two years continued using the open space opposite the multi-purpose hall, with rains occasionally pouring on commuters, particularly in summer.
The location of the main taxi rank is far away from the people who use taxis as a mode of transport daily, hence the under-utilization of main taxi rank, was the response from a group of taxi drivers I spoke to at the taxi rank, and they preferred to remain anonymous.
The open space on South Africa Drive and the Cosmo City Multi-Purpose Hall as well as South Africa Drive and the corner of Moldavia Street are the make-shift taxi ranks in Cosmo City currently if you were to visit, where most commuters stay in extensions’ 2, 4, and 6 – mostly RDP house dwellers. Commuters in all extensions have to make way to the make shift taxi rank if they want to make it on time to work.
Speaking to Executive Director of Transport in the City of Johannesburg about the under-utilised taxi rank, all she had to say was: “In respect of Cosmo City, yes, the taxi rank does have problems of utilisation due to its distance from the RDP houses. This was something not anticipated when the rank was built – it was also envisaged as a regional taxi rank”.
All of this begs the question that is the City of Johannesburg a Caring City if a facility worth R15million will be delivered and nobody cares if it is being utilized or not?
Remark: The concerned taxi operators in Cosmo City mentioned that the rank was built at a place where the community does not need it, according to the taxi operators the taxi rank should have been built in Extensions 2, 4, and 6 that have the RDP houses.
The Population of Cosmo City
In an interview with then Managing Director at Basil Read Developers, Brian Mulhorren, he confirmed that Cosmo City has 11 562 families currently. This number comes from 4944 RDP houses, 3400 bonded houses, 281 rental-apartments and 2937 semi-financed houses. There is a plan to have 20 bonded sites in extension 0, 150 bonded houses in extension 5, much like the Sonwabo Development. There is a potential of another 170 bonded houses in extension 8 and around 189 Uptown houses in extension 2 and 4.
The Unemployment situation in Cosmo City
We live in a country where the latest unemployment statistics from Statistics South Africa suggested that the unemployment rate was at a staggering 33.9% South Africans. This figure was reduced by the increase in informal businesses in our communities. With two thirds of the population in South Africa being the youth, the youth is mostly affected by unemployment.
Youth unemployment has been high for many years in South Africa and is one of the country’s major socio-economic challenges. Cross-country comparisons regularly affirm that South Africa’s unemployment rates are among the highest in the world.
Roughly 30% of male youth and 36% of female youth are disconnected from both the labour market and opportunities that promote future employability. Unemployed youth are characterised by their lack of employability resulting from a range of socio-economic factors. They often have low levels of education, have dropped out of school and invariably do not have the literacy, numeracy and communication skills needed in the labour market. They also have little work experience, which is a particularly undesirable characteristic for employers.
These young people lack strong networks or social capital that allow them to source job opportunities and tend not to have sufficient financial resources to enable mobility to areas where there is demand for labour. Of those who do have resources available as a result of their family support or network, they often have unrealistically high reservation wages, thereby resulting in relatively long periods of unsuccessful searching. These socio-economic factors have resulted in a gap between productivity and entry-level wages for young workers, which is a constraint on job creation.
Prospects of Employment in Cosmo City
Within the same taxi rank is 40 informal trader stalls which the residents could be using to earn a living and support their families, sadly those stalls are all not being used. This begs the question, how long is the status quo going to go on for, nine years down the line of the handing-over of the R15 million facility.
The Under-utilised Taxi Raxi in Cosmo City, 11 YEARS LATER!