Taxi industry cannot hold SA to ransom

Taxi operators who say they have incurred too many losses during the lockdown started operating at 100% on Monday
Taxi operators who say they have incurred too many losses during the lockdown started operating at 100% on Monday
Image: Werner Hills

“We have decided to take the bull by the horns. We cannot have postponements on our livelihoods.”

It was with these words that SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) president Phillip Taaibosch sent a stern message to the government, in particular transport minister Fikile Mbalula, on Sunday: listen to us or else.

Taxis have been operating at 70% occupancy since the start of the lockdown.

“We have decided that all provincial structures will, from Monday, load 100% capacity — whether the minister approves or not.

“All long-distance taxis must resume operation.

“No permits will be required from passengers in long-distance taxis.”

Taaibosch’s comments came after Mbalula had failed, four times, to meet and discuss a way forward with the taxi industry.

Mbalula announced on Friday that the government had signed off on the R1.135bn in relief funds for the taxi industry, about R5,000 a vehicle.

But operators say this is not enough and want R20,000 a vehicle.

While we understand the industry’s frustration, it simply cannot be allowed that it holds the country to ransom.

After all, considering how many millions of South Africans use this mode of transport every day, it is likely one of the easiest and fastest ways for Covid-19 to spread — despite assurances from the industry that all measures will be taken to ensure safety protocols are followed.

Other industries are having to operate under a new set of regulations — or not even at all — severely affecting their finances.

Why should taxis receive special treatment and be exempt?

At the same time, Mbalula needs to address the situation with a bit more urgency.

His explanation that feedback meetings had to be rescheduled “due to unforeseen circumstances” is not acceptable.

The Covid-19 storm we had been warned about is here.

And while the industry says its actions and proposed taxi fee increase are not driven by the virus, it will certainly affect how it is contained going forward.

It is crucial for all parties to come together and negotiate an outcome that will serve the best interests of all involved — the millions of people who rely on taxis included.

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