/ 7 September 2023

Taxi commuters spared tariff hikes for now, despite fuel price surge

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Commuters using minibus taxis will not see tariff increases just yet as taxi associations refrain from fare increases despite rising fuel costs.

Commuters using minibus taxis will not see tariff increases just yet as taxi associations refrain from fare increases despite rising fuel costs. 

The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in the Western Cape announced it has not yet made a decision to increase taxi fares in response to the surge in fuel prices.

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe announced this week that the prices of petrol, diesel and illuminating paraffin would increase on Wednesday. The retail price of 95-grade petrol increased by R1.71 a litre to R24.54 a litre in Gauteng, while the wholesale price of diesel jumped by between R2.76 and R2.84 a litre.

Despite the sharp hike, Santaco’s chairperson in the Western Cape, Mandla Hermanus, assured commuters on Wednesday that no decision to increase fares has been taken.

“As a rule, we do not normally adjust our prices in relation to the fluctuations in the price of fuel. We usually review the prices once a year or once every second year, but it varies from association to association. At the moment, our prices will remain as they are,” said Mandla.

He did, however, indicate that Santaco would monitor the situation and “should there be further increases in the cost of fuel, then we might have to re-look our pricing as well. But for now, our prices will remain as they are”.

The multi-billion a year industry is the backbone of South Africa’s public transport system, carrying 70% of commuters on 15 million trips each day, with the average household spending 60% of their disposable income on taxi fares.

Santaco’s national office could not be reached to confirm whether the decision will be implemented on a national level.

But Santaco’s secretary in Gauteng, Graham Fritz, told the M&G: “At this stage we are also not considering it yet, but we are not putting it completely off the table”. 

A taxi owner in KwaZulu-Natal told the M&G they have not received communication about tariff increases.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the owner said the last time they received information about fares was in July. And while each minibus taxi association increases their fees according to the conditions under which they operate, the owner claimed that tariffs did not increase.

The Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) in the Western Cape considers annual increases in November, its spokesperson, Lesley Siphukela, said. Last year, Codeta announced a tariff hike of R3.

Siphukela said they would not review prices before November, but added: “Except when there is a steep increase or maybe it increases steeply two or three times.” But even then route associations can request a concession from Codeta’s executives to lower the increase.

While the decision not to raise taxi fares for now is a relief for commuters, taxi operators are feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices.

Nkululeko Sityebi, spokesperson for the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) in the province, said that while they respect the taxi council’s decision not to increase tariffs at this stage, the rising fuel prices “affect us tremendously”.

“It is really hurting us,” Sityebi said, referring to the R2.76 taxi owners will now have to pay extra for each litre of diesel. 

He said that where it would cost drivers around R1 200 to fill up a 1.3L diesel tank in coastal areas, drivers will now have to pay an extra R200 or more without any additional income. According to Sityebi, Cata announced an increase of only R2 in taxi fares last year. He claimed annual increases never exceed R2.

Sityebi said the “bigger picture” is taken into account when tariff hikes are reviewed, in that rising fuel prices have an impact not only on owners, but the whole value chain, including the commuters who do not necessarily receive higher wages.