The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) has joined the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in its decision to load taxis to 100% capacity from Monday morning despite lockdown regulations restricting them to 70%.

Both NTA and Santaco will also resume inter-provincial travelling from Monday.

In the video below, Santaco briefs the media: 

NTA Secretary-General Alpheus Mlalazi says they will withdraw their services if members are harassed by law enforcement authorities. He says NTA members will act within their legal permits.

He says they were forced to take this step after Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula cancelled a meeting where they were supposed to discuss the relaxation of the COVID-19 regulations on the taxi industry for the fourth time.

“It’s not a defiance of government and the laws of the country, but it is a cry from the taxi industry to say, ‘can someone listen to you?’ We trust that the law enforcement agencies will be sympathetic to this call as a cry. We don’t expect that there will be a taxi that is impounded. We don’t expect that our members and the commuting public will be harassed,” says Mlalazi.

‘Disappointment at Santaco’s utterances’

The Transport Ministry says that the meeting between the department and the taxi association will still take place next week as earlier reported.

However, the department has expressed its disappointment with the South African National Taxi Council and the National Taxi Alliance’s decision to flout the lockdown regulations that restrict loading capacity to 70%.

The Minister’s spokesperson, Ayanda-Allie Paine, says the Minister is awaiting a decision from the National Coronavirus Command Council on the taxi industry’s announcement.

“It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law and forcefully load taxis at 100% capacity and undertake inter-provincial operations without the requisite permits, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled,” reads a statement from the Ministry.

Ayanda-Allie Paine says the Transport Ministry is disappointed:

It further adds that “Government has a responsibility to ensure that all measures in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, are driven by the commitment to preserve human life and avoid an uncontrolled spread of the virus.”

 

Operating licenses

The Taxi Council has vowed to approach the courts over government’s failure to issue operating licenses to taxi operators. 190 000 taxis nationwide were not operational during the lockdown.

Taxis remained the primary means of transport for essential service workers.

Taaibosch says they are concerned over government’s attitude towards the industry.

“All legal taxi operators in South Africa who possesses an operating license also have a SARS tax clearance certificate, our proposal to the minister is that why doesn’t the government use the operating license certificate as a qualification criteria instead of creating a complicated process for the applicants. Santaco will have no choice but to approach the courts for intervention.”

Minister ‘not taking taxi industry seriously’

The taxi industry has accused the Minister of not taking them seriously following the postponement of the scheduled meeting. The meeting was organised for Saturday at 1pm and then postponed to Sunday at the same time.

“We do not appreciate his handling of this thing and I think even if you are not in the taxi industry as an ordinary person, you would realise that you are not being taken seriously. Last night (Saturday) around to 12, we did receive an SMS from the ministry saying let’s make the meeting at 13:00 today. We received a message to say the minister has requested the meeting to be postponed to tomorrow,” says Santaco Spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa.

More reactions to Santaco announcement 

Reacting to an announcement by Santaco that members will start loading their vehicles to 100 percent capacity from Monday, Western Cape Transport Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela says he is sympathetic to the plight of taxi owners.

Madikizela says taxi owners also need to survive. “We can’t have a situation where the price now that people are paying is even more than the Covid-19 price because if you look at what is happening in terms of people who are hungry, people who are depressed, anxiety, the rate of anxiety, you know. Abuse is happening in those homes. If you weigh that against the situation that we are facing people will end up taking the risk and I don’t blame them.”

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has urged the public transport industry to comply with COVID-19 regulations. Speaking during a media briefing in Durban, Zikalala said they have observed that public transport was not regularly decontaminated.

“There’s virtually no sanitisation that is taking place and in some of these activities, there’s no social distancing and no regular decontamination in those transport facilities. This is causing a risk of spreading infections at a rate that will overwhelm all of us we are taking this opportunity to appeal to all involved in the public transport industry to ensure that they fully comply.”