The government is ‘not afraid of the taxi industry’ — Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has reiterated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that taxis are allowed to increase their capacity to 100% for local trips. 

Speaking on Thursday, the minister said the department has consulted with the Medical Advisory Council and its recommendations were “duly considered and accepted” when making the decision. 

He made it clear that the council did not agree with the 100% capacity — it instead wanted 40% — but Mbalula explained that the latter percentage would cause the taxi industry to “perish”. 

Originally, the Covid-19 lockdown regulations prescribed a 50% loading capacity for taxis. 

He said that the industry owes banks, is indebted and is not covered in terms of the R500-billion relief package announced by the government. 


Mbalula was speaking on Thursday at the Economic Cluster Ministers briefing on combating the spread of Covid-19. 

To allow taxis to operate at 100% capacity, the department has made it mandatory for taxis’ windows to be kept 5cm open on both sides. In addition, vehicles should be sanitised before picking up and after dropping off passengers, and passengers must be encouraged to sanitise after they enter and exit the vehicle.

Mbalula added that the taxi bosses at each taxi rank have a responsibility to ensure that these rules are upheld. 

The minister said everybody who does not adhere to the regulations is committing a criminal offence and law-enforcement officials will arrest people who break the law. 

The minister explained that he is aware that his department carries the “burden” of enabling economic activity, while containing the spread of the virus. “We have no doubt that public transport could pose a real threat to the efforts towards containment of the rapid spread of the pandemic”, Mbalula said.  

The taxi industry has previously threatened to shut down operations to protest the government’s relief package of R1.1-billion for the sector. The industry has also previously complained about the 50% capacity regulation, saying that it is losing money. In early April, Mbalula allowed taxis to operate at 100% capacity, but then backtracked to 70%. 

Mbalula said the government is not afraid of the taxi industry and its recent decisions are guided by “rationale”. 

Covid-19’s Catch-22 effect

He said the government’s efforts are saving lifes and ensuring that the economy does not come to a standstill. He said the decisions made in the context of Covid-19 are not easy: “You take it [ a decision], you are damned; you do not take it, you are damned”. 

Mbalula reiterated that the government has been having discussions with the taxi industry about the effects of Covid-19 and the losses that the industry is incurring.

“We engaged with the taxi industry leadership in good faith and we found each other in many areas, but there are areas where we differ. However, the door remains open for further engagements on issues where we are not in agreement,” he noted.

The department has also had discussions with the Banking Association South Africa on further relief measures they can extend to the taxi industry.  

Mbalula informed the media that his department is still planning to give the industry the R1-billion once-off “ex gratia” payment. 

He said Covid-19 showed the difficulty of dealing with an unregulated industry and the department is working on plans to fully regulate the taxi industry through formalising and professionalising it, as well as working towards subsidising it. 

Taxis and buses travelling long distances are allowed to operate, with capacity capped at 70%. 

Mbalula also announced that East London, George and Kimberley airports have met all the requirements to open and will resume operations on July 21.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Hope grows on Durban beachfront

Ten homeless men who turned a vacant lot into an organic vegetable garden are now reaping the rewards of their toil

Biodiversity is crucial for South Africa’s food security

Farming must embrace sustainable, regenerative agriculture practices to secure our future

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of my friends’

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never meet

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…