From Prasa woes to ‘crippled’ aviation, Mbalula’s plans for different sectors

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula inside Reya Vaya bus from Soweto to Johannesburg CBD, 22 May 2020, to inspect safety measures and preventing the spread of the coronavirus on Rea Vaya buses and at stations. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

In accessing the relief funds or lodging their applications, government has dedicated capacity in the department of transport to help support businesses to apply for relief.

Confirming the huge impact the pandemic has had on the economy, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula provided an update on government’s input to provide relief to ailing sectors.

“We are under no illusion about the economic impact on families, on workers, and on small businesses who rely on the sector to make a living.”

Measures to stimulate the economy post lockdown include the gradual resumption of operations across all modes.

Aviation

“Our immediate response to the pandemic when the country entered a hard lockdown, we closed our airspace to all air traffic, both domestic and international.”

He noted the dire situation it left the sector in, as revenues for airlines, airport authorities, navigation services as well as civil aviation authorities were massively impacted.

“Our Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has been hardest hit, as all its revenue streams were affected. This has been further worsened by the credit rating downgrade earlier in the year. The ATNS, SACAA have been equally impacted and will require support to achieve recovery as quickly as possible.”

Rail

Government sealed off all long-distance passenger rail and commuter rail, at the beginning of the lockdown when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national state of disaster.

Mbalula confirmed that both Shosholoza Meyl and the Rovos Rail remained closed under level three, while commuter rail has been given the green light to operate under Level 3.

“Gautrain services are fully operational, while Metrorail services are projected to resume on 1 July, subject to stringent safety measures being implemented.

He admitted the worse financial position the pandemic had left the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) which resulted in further cash constraints, to the already stretched agency.

Maritime

“Similar to the Aviation sector, we closed our sea-ports to passenger vessels and cruise liners at the beginning of the lockdown. This was in line with similar actions taken by other nations around the world. The impact on the maritime sub-sector has been equally devastating both to the private sector and maritime authorities.”

Road

Bus operators, driving schools, courier companies among others have been severely hit by the impact of the pandemic. Mbalula said the Road Traffic Management Corporation and the SA Roads Agency were some of the hardest impacted sectors.

“In response to the plight of industry, government has responded with a wide range of measures, central to which was a R500-billion relief package, covering various sectors. Within this package, about R100 billion was set aside by the National Treasury to support job creation and support for SME and informal business.”

“We have further made resources available in the form of sanitisers, disinfectants and other personal protective equipment, in order to alleviate the procurement burden on the part of operators.

“A number of companies, operating in the transport sub-sectors ranging from bus operators, logistics firms, driving schools and many others have approached us for relief support. We have provided adequate advice and redirected these companies to the government relief funds established for this purpose and the support they require.”

In accessing the relief funds or lodging their applications, government has dedicated capacity in the department of transport to help support businesses to apply for relief.

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