Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has defended the department’s decision to relax regulations and allow taxis to operate for more than eight hours a day.
He said the regulations were revised after the department assessed the “material conditions” of commuters and taxi operators affected by the clampdown on travelling during the 21-day lockdown.
The original regulations had reduced the loading capacity of taxis to 50%, but were revised following consultations between the taxi industry and the department.
Earlier this week, Mbalula announced that taxis can carry up to 100% of loading capacity — provided that passengers and the taxi driver wear surgical N95 masks.
But the minister said that only 70% of loading capacity is permitted between 04:00-10:00 and from 15:00-21:00. This would enable taxis to operate for two more hours a day than the regulations announced at the start of the lockdown.
An unintended consequence of the previous 09:00 cutoff time was that scores of commuters were left at malls and shopping centres because banks and pharmacies only opened at that time. Commuters would then have to wait for the next window for public transport in the afternoon before they could make their way home.
Mbalula told reporters on Friday during a virtual media briefing that the decision to revise the regulations was also taken to lessen the financial losses sustained by taxi operators during the lockdown, including “fuelling the car and paying the driver”.
He said the measures are part of the government’s steps to ensure that public transport does not become a site of contagion for Covid-19.
On whether the government would provide financial relief to taxi operators for losses incurred during the lockdown, Mbalula said: “We are looking at that” and the government would provide aid to the industry “if there are resources” available.
E-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt may carry 50% of their loading capacity. Mbalula said that 32 e-hailing drivers had been pulled over by law enforcement officials for carrying more passengers than the permitted number. And 56 taxi drivers were caught carrying more than the maximum number of passengers allowed.
Two private vehicle operators were stopped in roadblocks when they tried to travel across South Africa’s border.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, 341 cars have been prevented from entering or leaving provincial borders — 86 in Mpumalanga, 24 in the Eastern Cape and 231 in Gauteng.
Additionally, 146 roadblocks have been in place countrywide and 17 395 vehicles were checked for compliance with the lockdown regulations.