Mbalula avoids strike in taxi industry by relaxing minibus restrictions

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.

The transport minister signed new regulations on Monday raising the limit on the number of passengers in minibuses from 50% to 70%, as demanded by Santaco.

After the SA National Taxi Industry (Santaco) cancelled plans to go on strike over demands calling for the relaxation of restrictions on travel and the number of passengers in vehicles, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula explained on Tuesday in Pretoria that his department had listened to the concerns put forward.

“A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers is limited to carry a maximum of 7,” read the new gazetted rules, which were signed on Monday, though it appears Mbalula was yet to announce them publicly.

A 15-seater can now carry 10 people. A 22-seater can load 15, but a four-seater vehicle can still only carry 50% of its carrying capacity, suggesting the concessions were made only to appease the taxi industry.

Mbalula signed off on rules that if a taxi’s passengers were all wearing masks, it would be allowed to be filled to 100% as long as the masks were surgical masks or N95 respiratory masks.

“All public transport operators must put measures in place to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of the virus,” he further decreed.

Mbalula said at Tuesday’s briefing: “We met with the taxi industry, with issues raised about operating times and the number of passengers per minibus taxi. Of course the industry also raised concerns about subsidising the industry. These issues are going to Cabinet and will be discussed, such as how to regulate the taxi industry. Because it is not regulated, taxi drivers do not get UIF.

“We cannot take decisions that are not sustainable just because of the virus. We have engaged with Santaco and they went back to their constituents. I am optimistic that there is an understanding that this issue is beyond us. We did not plan to be where we are. ”

As for travel between provinces, he said this would not be allowed.

“Regulations do not allow you to drive from one province to another. You will meet law enforcement on the road and you will be sent back. You need a permit for that. You will need to produce a good reason – such as travelling to a funeral,” he said.

Taxis are still only allowed to transport passengers between the hours of 5am and 10am, and 4pm and 8pm. However, the vehicles can be on the roads outside of those times as part of transport preparations, as long as they don’t have passengers.

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