Cape taxis pack vehicles in show of defiance of lockdown regulations
They also said inter-provincial travel, which has been closed during the national lockdown, would be reopened.
Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, who visited the taxi rank to monitor the situation, said Cape Town taxis heeded the call by the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) to load 100% capacity on Monday.
Madikizela said one might not agree with them (taxi operators) and how they are dealing with their frustrations but their reasons were understandable.
“They were asked more than three months ago to park their taxis and operate at 30% capacity. Subsequent to that they were asked to load 50%, then 70% in their taxis. They agreed to this because the government promised that sacrifice was for a short period.”
He said the lockdown was meant to last for a few weeks for the government to build enough health infrastructure capacity for the peak while slowing down the rate of infections. They agreed with that understanding.
“Many are losing their vehicles because they can’t afford to pay for them, let alone feeding their families and families of those they employ.”
Commuters boarded taxis without complaining and departed to different destinations in the province with vehicles loaded to 100% capacity.
Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) secretary Mandla Hermanus said Cata in principle supported the increase of loading capacity to 100%.
Hermanus said they believed taxis, with proper sanitisation were safe. “The costs of travelling across provinces are such that not a single person would simply decide to travel for no reason. Our people travel across provinces because of serious reasons. Also, the restrictions have not stopped people from travelling, all the restrictions have done is to put administrative burdens on police who have had to issue the necessary permits. This has also resulted in border posts being congested and posing a high risk of infections,” he said.
Hermanus said Cata would continue to ensure that vehicles were sanitised regularly and that all passengers were wearing masks and every passenger was sanitised before boarding.
“While we support the lifting of these restrictions, Cata will not encourage its members to break the laws relating to the state of disaster we are in and, as such, we are calling for the lobbying of the national government to review the regulations and remove these restrictions.”
Santaco provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer said after a lengthy meeting on Monday it was decided to hold consultations with their primary associations today before taking a concrete position on Santaco national’s statement.
National Taxi Alliance (NTA) spokesperson Theo Malele said NTA leadership had been under pressure from members across the country who have been demanding that the government should allow them to load their taxis at full capacity.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said it was unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law and forcefully load taxis at 100% capacity and undertake inter-provincial operations without the requisite permits, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled.
Mbalula condemned the call encouraging taxi operators to violate 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,” Mbalula said.@SISONKE_MD