Address by President Jacob Zuma to the SANTACO Airlines proof of concept event, Lanseria Airport, Johannesburg
16 September 2011
Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele;
Gauteng Transport MEC,
President of the South African National Taxi Council, SANTACO,
Mr Jabulani Mthembu;
CEO of SANTACO,
Mr. Bongani Msimang;
National Leadership of SANTACO;
Chairpersons and CEOs of Companies present;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Today is a historic day for our country.
When addressing a black business summit last week, I said we need to start seeing tangible results of economic transformation and freedom.
We said black people, women and persons with disabilities need to visibly enter the economic sectors that were closed to them before, such as manufacturing so that we could see the rise of new black industrialists.
Today we are celebrating such an achievement. A sector that was branded by some as never going to be able to progress to even own fleets of buses, has leapfrogged into the aviation industry by owning an airline.
It is therefore an honor and a privilege for me to join SANTACO in celebrating this milestone.
SANTACO is also celebrating ten years of existence within the taxi industry. You have achieved in 10 years a goal many would take a lifetime to reach. We are happy that our freedom and democracy creates an environment for South Africans to literally touch the sky when they want to!
We applaud SANTACO for this brave step, in giving the country its first fully black owned airline.
This comes so soon after the welcome involvement of the taxi industry in the ownership and operation of the BRT, another important empowerment initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The SANTACO Airlines venture is also significant because it is a practical example of economic and social emancipation, in both ownership and consumption. SANTACO Airlines is owned by more than a hundred thousand taxi owners, which makes it one of the most broad-based black empowerment ventures in our country.
Secondly, a significant number of our people who relied on taxis and buses only, will now be able to access SANTACO airline services between Johannesburg, Cape Town and the Eastern Cape.
Currently, ACSA airports around the country handle more than 18 million passengers per year. While this number might look big, most of our people do not have access to air transport.
This is because of the high cost of air travel, and to some extent, an unfortunate perception which should be shed, that air travel is the exclusive preserve of a privileged few.
SANTACO is therefore opening air travel to the masses, building on the contribution of other low cost airlines that entered the market recently.
This new entry underlines the growth of our aviation industry. Statistics show that South Africa is home to more than 70% of aviation activities in the SADC region.
In addition, the country’s aviation industry has experienced significant growth over the past 10 years. For instance, in 1993, fewer than 12 international airlines flew into South Africa.
To date more than 70 international airlines fly into the country on a regular basis. Passenger numbers have been growing more than 10% per annum.
The Airports Company of South Africa handles close to 16.8 million departing passengers annually, and is currently experiencing an annual growth of 10.8 percent.
The East London airport, where SANTACO flights will be servicing, has grown by 18 percent on average, reaching more than 700 000 passengers per annum.
It is also correct and proper for the taxi industry to move a step higher into the aviation sector. The industry is a major player in the public transport industry, carrying an average of 15 million passengers a day countrywide.
It is by far the single largest and most accessible service provider in the public transport industry.
Annually the industry spends 15 billion rand on fuels, 10 billion rand on vehicles and 150 million rand on tyres. It contributes about 16, 5 billion rand in revenue every year.
To support the growth of the taxi industry and of public transport in general, as government, we will continue to invest in infrastructure, especially the building and repairs of roads.
We have already spent more than nine billion rand rolling out the Integrated Public Transport Networks in some of our cities over the last six years. The expenditure trend is going to continue for the next 10 years.
Over the past six years, we invested more than 48 billion rand in our Bus Rapid Transit System, rail and the Taxi Recapitalization Programme.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we are also upbeat for another important reason. For many years, the taxi industry has been shrouded in controversy.
It has been faced by violence, poor service and a bad safety record.
The industry is steadily shedding the negative image, which augurs very well for the future growth and development of this important transport sector.
Through your TR3 2020 Strategy, SANTACO, which involves Redefining, Restructuring and Repositioning the taxi industry, we anticipate much more developments.
These developments encompass both tangible outcomes such as safe taxis, as well as intangible outcomes such as embracing good customer client attitude and relationship, resulting in world class service.
In this regard, I am happy that we share the commitment to improving the transport system in the country and in particular the services provided by the taxi industry.
Government, through the Department of Transport is committed to setting up new academies to train taxi drivers. About R5 million was allocated towards this project.
Many more areas of cooperation will be explored in future.
All the positive developments we have spoken about indicate that the taxi industry is moving forward towards the development of world class public transport in South Africa.
Your motto: “A backward glance with a forward outlook” is hopefully a true expression of the good intentions that propel you in this industry today.
With our success in hosting the World Cup Tournament last year, we believe that the taxi industry is also fast gearing up to play a significant role in the many world class events that we will still host in future.
In conclusion, as I said, the launch of the airline is both an achievement and a challenge, and hopefully an indication of many innovative projects still to come.
May the SANTACO Airlines bring pride and hope to the millions of South Africans, as your slogan boldly suggests, “Fly with Pride.”
We welcome this launch wholeheartedly, and wish you success in this first endeavor. This should pave way for your intended expansion to other routes, including the broader SADC region.
May your initiative encourage more exciting groundbreaking ventures into new sectors of our economy, by many black entrepreneurs.
In this way, we will be achieving the goals stated in 1955 in the Freedom Charter, that all shall share in the country’s wealth.
I thank you!