Taxi drivers in the Bloemfontein say the taxi industry has been forgotten since the start of the country’s lockdown. They say the industry has been hard hit by regulations as they are not allowed to carry full passenger loads. They also complain that they have not received any relief.

46-year-old Tseliso “Lela” Motsokobi wakes up at three in the morning to be among the first taxis to pick-up commuters. As he loads his taxi, he warms himself with a cup of coffee, preparing himself for the day of hustling.

The father of five children has been a taxi driver for the past 10 years, and he says the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the taxi industry to its knees. Motsokobi says they are now struggling to maintain their families due the reduced salaries. But, he says, he loves his job despite its challenges.

“Its very very hard, because we are loading only 10 people and that is very little money. You check the distance and we have to pour petrol for that. Our children are suffering and I had to send them back home. I am staying at a rented house,” says Motsokobi.

Taxi drivers say while they have to look out for the safety of their passengers, they are still expected to make the same profit they did before the lockdown. They say the pressure is high.

“We suffer a lot. Our passengers are fighting for their rights and drivers too. They want sanitisers we don’t have sanitisers. They demand social distancing and in the taxi we can’t create a one metre distance.”

“Our owners demand money like before its lockdown now we can’t get the money we used, because we don’t load 100 %.”

Commuters sympathise with taxi drivers, but maintain that their safety comes first.

“They are struggling because they have to be paid.”

“They are in trouble since lockdown started totally there has been some fair payments and increase all over but not with taxi drivers.”

Taxi drivers have appealed to government to subsidise the industry as its key to the economy.

In the video below, is the report on the Free State taxi drivers:

The taxi industry has been complaining about the impact of lockdown rules on operators’ pockets. In June, Gauteng industry players went on a one-day strike, calling on government to increase its R1.1 billion relief package meant for the sector. They argue that the money is too little.