Mbalula pleased with progress made with taxi industry

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says he is happy with the commitment that taxi industry leaders have shown in resolving issues with the department. 

Mbalula met with industry leaders, including members of the National Taxi Association, on Monday.

The talks followed a Sunday undertaking by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) for taxis to return to loading vehicles at 100% capacity and the resumption of inter-provincial trips. A move in violation of lockdown regulations.

Taxis are permitted to load up to 70 % capacity and inter-provincial trips are not allowed. Mbalula says the National Coronavirus Command Council is dealing with issues that the taxi industry leadership has raised.

“I’ve met with Santaco yesterday. I’ve met with NTA. The issues that they raised we are considering them and they are on the government agenda. So we’ve found each other in relation to dealing with matters of integrity and with respect to commuters and also the regulations. And I am happy with those meetings and the commitment that the leadership has made. And we are facing difficult times ahead and the Command Council will give direction.” 

The Transport Minister will report back to the taxi authorities on Thursday.

In a statement, Santaco says in the meeting with the Minister they all resolved to prioritise the industry’s call for drivers to start loading full capacity and resuming long-distance operations, while adhering to COVID-19 health protocols.

The Minister reassured Santaco that he would continue to engage with the banking sector for a further payment holiday for the taxi industry as part of government’s intervention in helping the industry.

Commuters are urged to report any incidents of safety standards not being followed. They are encouraged to call, SMS or WhatsApp the association on 073 356 8500.

 Taxis loading to full capacity in Mahikeng 

On Monday, the taxi industry reacted with mixed views to the call for a return to full capacity loading.

While others violated the lockdown rules in the morning, they returned to the legal quota later on.

On Tuesday, however, in Mahikeng in the North West, taxi operators continued loading to full capacity

Taxi operators say they are suffering financial losses if they only load their taxis to 70% of its capacity as current COVID-19 regulations stipulate. 

Taxi owner Tebogo Leburu, who operates from the Bradford Park Taxi Rank in Mahikeng, says they are unable to make enough money to cover their fuel costs or repay the loans on their vehicles. 

Leburu blames the government for the predicament they are in. He says the government has failed to provide enough support to the industry and that the R1 billion relief is not enough to cover costs that owners have to deal with. 

Taxi operators say they are trying their best to comply with health and safety precautions but some of the regulations are not sustainable. “We wear face masks, all the passengers are wearing masks, but when it comes to loading 70 % we can’t,” says one of the operators. 

The Department of Public Safety says it has noted with concern some public transport operators who have started violating the lockdown regulations. Department Spokesperson Oshebeng Koonyaditse says law enforcement officers will maintain order.

 “The law enforcement officers will make sure that all those who contravene the law are being punished. We are pleading with them please comply with the regulations as per prescript for COVID- 19.” 

Taxi operators in some Gauteng areas were also loading to capacity: