The transport department has extended the deadline for the removal of the current minibus taxi fleet, which will now be illegal from October 2010.

The transport department has extended the deadline for the removal of the current minibus taxi fleet, which will now be illegal from October 2010.

Dullah Omar, the transport minister, said that from October 2008, taxis would have to comply with certain safety specifications. From October 2010, all taxis failing to comply with the specifications would be removed from the roads.

Omar said that as far as he knew, none of the vehicles currently on the road complied with the new basic safety specifications, including rollover protection, safety belts for all passengers and a proper chassis. He said that before October 2008 no taxi would be removed from the road because it did not meet the new requirements.

Omar said it had not been possible to agree to a request made by the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) for these deadline dates to be extended by two years, according to .

The transport minister was required to determine these deadline dates in terms of section 31 of the National Land Transport Transition Act and Omar said that the fixed dates provided the taxi industry with enough time to pay off relatively new taxis or find and arrange finance for the new vehicles.

The idea is to replace about 97 000 ageing minibus taxis with purpose-built 18- and 35-seater vehicles, and to regulate and empower the taxi industry.

Omar said taxi operators would embrace the planned recapitalisation programme as they would be attracted by the incentive system, the 20 percent scrapping allowance and 25.1 percent equity in the companies that manufactured the vehicles.

As the first vehicles are planned to roll out early next year, Omar said that there was no opposition to the recapitalisation programme.

"My suspicion is that over time the cutoff dates will become irrelevant as more and more taxi operators take advantage of the benefits of the programme," the minister said.

"The announcement of these dates will help both the industry and financial institutions which want to continue their support for the industry," he said.

Tom Muofhe, Santaco's president, said the importance of the announcement on the deadline dates for the taxi industry could not be overemphasised as it clarified lots of uncertainties surrounding the current 16-seater vehicles.