The Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has urged the taxi industry to reconsider its decision to start operating at 100% capacity as of Monday, 29 June.
On Sunday afternoon, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) announced that all taxis across the country will operate with a full load whether government approved or not.
Mbalula had cancelled a meeting planned for Sunday with taxi operators, as well as other meetings which were planned for earlier in the week.
In a statement, the minister argued that the meeting had to be cancelled “due to unforeseen circumstances”.
“Following my engagements with the taxi industry leadership in the last week and my commitment to give them an update once the matters have been canvassed with the decision-making structures within government, I scheduled feedback meetings on Thursday.
“These had to be rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances,” he said.
Mbalula said it was unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership had decided to violate the law and forcefully load taxis at 100% capacity and undertake inter-provincial operations without permits, than await a decision on the matters it has have tabled.
“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.
“It is on that basis that a decision to allow uncontrolled inter-provincial travel and 100% loading capacity on taxis have to be subjected to the collective decision-making. I appeal to the leadership structures of the industry to reconsider their decision to incite lawlessness and place their drivers and passengers on a collision course with law enforcement authorities.
“While we have expressed support for a review of loading capacity to 100%, until the current directions have been revised the legal loading capacity is 70% and enforceable by law enforcement authorities,” he added.
The minister further condemned any call encouraging taxi operators to violate provisions of the law and promote lawlessness.
“We remain committed to taking forward our engagements and encourage the industry to ensure that any form of protest they embark upon, is within the parameters of the law,” he said.
During a virtual media briefing, Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch argued that the taxi industry has been on board with government’s plan since the beginning of the lockdown despite the minister “misleading the nation about the taxi industry”.
“Mbalula has postponed the meeting for the fourth time so it has become clear that the minister does not appreciate the gravity of the situation.
“We are inclined to believe that the minister wanted to canvas his own understanding of what he was doing and wanted the public to paint the taxi industry in a bad light. We have all done our part to play the ball, but we have decided to face the bull and take it by the horns,” he said.
He reiterated that the taxi industry will not accept government Covid-19 relief fund package.
“The announcement of the minister on the taxi industry relief does not reflect the spirit of our negotiations with him because nothing that he said was finalised. We are not going to take the R1.1 billion because government is not taking us seriously. We will survive because we have been surviving without the assistance of the government,” he added.