The National Taxi Alliance on Wednesday called on Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to “consider the plight” of long-distance taxi operators, saying it was “grossly disappointed” that under the amended transport regulations, the government did not lift the 70% loading capacity or relax restrictions on cross-border taxis.
“Long-distance taxis have not operated profitably since 27 March, yet most of the taxis are still paying instalments and many are on the verge of being repossessed by the financial institutions,” spokesperson Theo Malele said in a statement.
“There appears to be shift from the undertakings by government to balance the saving of lives with that of earning a living.
“These taxis are feeding, clothing and educating families and extended families, it is therefore inconsiderate of our government to maintain the 70% loading capacity when the realities reflect otherwise.”
Among the new travel regulations announced by Mbalula on Tuesday, interprovincial travel is now permitted, though subject to restrictions on public transport.
Mini-buses and midi-buses are permitted to carry a maximum of 70% of their licensed passengers when undertaking long-distance travel, defined as any distance in excess of 200km, irrespective of whether it crosses the provincial boundary or not.
Buses, shuttle services, scholar transport, mini-buses and midi-buses on trips less than 200km can operate at 100%, but rail operations are still only permitted to carry 70% passengers.
The alliance said it was under pressure from long-distance and cross-border operators who were “calling for action that will return their operations to full capacity”.
“Passengers in a disinfected taxi, all of them sanitised and wearing masks, as in any other mode of public transport,” Malele said.
“We therefore call on the minister to urgently consider the plight of these taxi operations and avoid a fallout with the taxi industry and maintain the current cordial working relationship.”
In June, taxi drivers blockaded several Gauteng roads protesting against what they believed to be insufficient government relief offered to the industry.
Mbalula himself admitted the decision to avail R1.135 billion to the industry as relief support was “too little” to compensate for the lockdown.
The government, however, did not have more money to give, he said at the time.
Last month, Santaco and the NTA went back to a 100% loading capacity, saying the government was not taking the industry seriously after multiple meetings to discuss their grievances were postponed.
Santaco, too, had last month lamented the effect of the restrictions on long-distance taxi operators, who it said had suffered the most during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
News24 approached the transport department for comment, which will be added once received.