Cape Town - Taxi associations have said lower passenger demand would mean they would carry fewer passengers outside the Western Cape this Easter weekend.
They blamed high fuel prices, the dour economy and passengers still recovering financially after two years of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Cape Organisation for the Democratic Taxi Association spokesperson Andile Khanyi said: “One would have thought that with the national state of disaster lifted, we would be moving up and down. However, that’s far from reality.”
Khanyi said that was why they were not promoting trips across the country as they normally do, but he thought the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) would be hosting safety campaigns or awareness drives as usual.
However, Santaco said that due to the impact of Covid-19, its road safety awareness coffers had dried up.
Santaco provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer also attributed the lack of funds in the running of the council’s usual programmes to the impact of the pandemic.
Despite the taxi industry’s somewhat sombre expectation of the Easter weekend, it is all systems go for transport, traffic, law enforcement and police departments that are preparing to host the busiest long weekend since Easter 2019.
Earlier this week, the national Department of Transport launched its nationwide Easter Road Safety Plan (ERSP) in Gauteng and said it would focus on implementing initiatives through collaborations to avoid carnage on the country’s busiest roads.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said: “This busy period requires us to skilfully deploy resources across the country if we are to succeed in arresting the carnage on our roads.”
Mbalula said the department would focus on safety belts, roadworthiness of vehicles, fatigue, drunk driving, pedestrian safety and reckless driving.
“We will deploy law enforcement officers through a collaborative mechanism that has proven effective over the years.”
Vehicle Testing Association director Julian Pillay said the association welcomed the collaborative initiatives of the various traffic and enforcement authorities to increase visibility this Easter.
Although the launch of the national ERSP took place earlier this week, the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works will only unveil the Western Cape’s road safety plan today.
Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell, joined by Premier Alan Winde, launched Easter Traffic Safety Plan for road safety this weekend, although Mitchell indicated the department would make use of its usual ERSP before the pandemic.
Winde said: “I am very encouraged by the measures put in place by the Western Cape government, particularly through the Provincial Department of Transport and Public Works and the Disaster Management Centre, to ensure the safety of visitors and residents alike over this period, and strongly encourage personal safety of both drivers and pedestrians over this period.”
Premier Winde added: “To promote the safety of those in our province over this long weekend, the Western Cape government has ensured that all emergency services in the province work together with the Provincial Health Department’s Emergency Medical Services and Rescue Services to identify high risk areas and plan combined responses to these areas.”
The City’s Traffic Service Department is also offering long-distance public transport operators the opportunity to get their vehicles checked as part of its Operation Exodus.
Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said: “The focus of the Operation Exodus (OE) will be on vehicle safety, driver fitness, overloading, as well as the validity of operating licences.
"OE teams will be stationed at the Joe Gqabi Public Transport Interchange, the Bellville Traffic Department and the long-distance bus terminus in the CBD.”
The City’s enforcement agencies will also host a series of vehicle checkpoints across the city over the long weekend.
Traffic safety organisations and motorists have cautioned government departments about generalising their approach to road safety, and implored the departments to take heed of their recommendations to prevent road carnage this weekend.
South Africans Against Drunk Driving director Caro Smit said: “Transport and traffic departments need to make sure they enforce the use of seat belts. While the focus is always on the number of people who die in accidents due to not being protected, can you imagine how greater the number of people who are injured is, and gravely so some of them?”
Greyhound spokesperson Leslie Matthews said: “We have seen an amazing uptake in bookings since we relaunched especially online reservations. This was the case well before the Easter weekend.”