Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo has told a commission of inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg that the taxi industry will turn itself into "an animal" if government leaves it to its own devices.
Mamabolo has predicted an ugly war if the taxi industry is not properly regulated by government.
He told the commission of inquiry into taxi violence in Gauteng, chaired by Judge Jeremiah Shongwe and commissioners Hlula Msimang and Lungile Mabece, that the industry which he himself fears is also feared by everybody else.
"It has an opportunity to turn itself into a powerful model of BEE. The democratic government must bring it together and state organs must also work together to improve the taxi industry.
'We need to know who the illegal operators in the industry are'
"As government, we should be interested in published financial statements and how money is spent, and look who is into the industry, including government employees and others who are fronting. We need to know who the illegal operators in the industry are.
"If we don't do that, we will perpetuate the industry that is left to itself ... we are totally neglecting it." He added that "everyone is afraid of it, including myself".
Mamabolo said that he is also afraid to go to taxi ranks.
"If the taxi industry is left to itself, it grows into an animal that we are all afraid of it. If we work with them, we will be able to empower it and give it money. We can't give people money who are going to hire (hitmen) with government money to kill each other.
"If you value something, you put money in it. We don't know how many associations are in Gauteng and how many operators are in Gauteng and how many taxis are in Gauteng. Commuters are paying money to travel safely in taxis.
Govt must come to the table
"Imagine we were subsidising commuters who carry cards and when they use them, part of the payment goes to government. It will reduce the cost of travelling in taxis.
"Women and widows who have joined the industry after the deaths of their husbands complained to me that they need a door from government where they can come and raise their issues.
"By regularising the industry, we will be saving it," Mamabolo said.
"We can't tell operators what to do because they live by themselves. If we don't put money [into it], it is a no man's world. The industry is critical and we must take care of it, clean it and prevent it from collapsing.
"If there would be [a taxi] war now, the economy will be severely affected and many commuters are going to lose their jobs because some employers don't understand taxi violence," Mamabolo said.