By Mzukona Mantshontsho
As we celebrate transport month in October in South Africa, one cannot help wonder what will happen to the under-utilised R15million taxi rank in Cosmo City.
The theme for this year is: “Living in the Corridors of Freedom and a Caring City”.
The taxi rank 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 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 corner of South Africa Drive and Liberia Crescent is the taxi rank 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 extension 7, 8, 9, 10, 5, 0 – semi-financed and bonded houses have to make way to the corner of South Africa Drive and Liberia Crescent if they want to make it on time to work.
Speaking to Lisa Seftel, Executive Director of Transport in the City of Johannesburg about the under-utilised taxi rank, all she had to say was: “In respect of the 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 rank”.
All of this begs the question that is the City of Johannesburg a Caring City if a facility worth R15miilion will be delivered and nobody cares if it is being utilized or not? With the taxi rank being under-utilized, what Corridors of Freedom are we referring to?
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, four years down the line of the building of the R15million facility.
“In respect of the hawker stalls, this is the responsibility of the Department of Economic Development so I can’t comment on that,” said Seftel.
This one paragraph response was the only response I got from the Caring City of Johannesburg’s Transport department. Judging from the building, delivery, the history of commuting and usage of the R15million taxi rank, this is how things will be in Cosmo City, for years to come. It is very difficult to see any accountability and making the facility work for the majority of the commuters in Cosmo City from the transport department, taxi associations and all relevant stakeholders.
Cosmo City continues to grow as a place of choice and as a community with an estimated population of around 70,000 as given by main developers Basil Read Developers in 2010. Cosmo City emerged out of an urgent need to provide accommodation for the informal settlers of Zevenfontein and Riverbend who had been illegally occupying privately owned land 25kilometres, North West of Johannesburg.
During the last count on Wednesday 4 July 2012 Cosmo City had a total of 10 792 families according to the then Gauteng MEC for Local Government, Housing and Traditional Affairs Humphrey Mmemezi. This number comes from 4914 RDP houses, 3197 bonded houses, 281 rental-apartments and 2400 semi-financed houses.
This Cosmo City Development was as a result of a R3.5 billion public private partnership between the City of Johannesburg, Basil Read, Codevco as well as the community. Cosmo City is close to major Shopping Centres and Lanseria Airport making it a prime middle class area in the North of Johannesburg.
The result was the Cosmo City we have today: An integrated, mixed use inclusionary housing development that integrates families from different income groups in the same human settlement and complies with government’s policy in terms of a sustainable development. It was seen as a total departure from the tradition of relocating poor people to the fringes of South Africa’s metropolitan areas, far removed from job opportunities and other city amenities.