Lockdown level 3: Relief for taxi industry
Cape Town – Parliamentarians have heard that most of the taxi relief proposals for the taxi industry have been agreed to and adopted.
This emerged on Wednesday night when the Transport Department briefed the portfolio committee on the implementation of level 3 of the Covid-19 regulations.
The loading capacity for minibus taxis is currently at 70% of licensed passengers, with social distancing and other Covid-19 mitigating measures still in place.
Briefing the MPs, Transport Department director-general Alec Moemi said the government has made a commitment to support the taxi industry and that there have been negotiations.
"We have arrived at a point where most of the principles have been agreed and adopted," he said.
Moemi also said the taxi industry would receive relief support as opposed to compensation for loss of income.
"In our negotiations, we made it clear that as the government we pay relief and this is what we do across all sectors. We engaged the industry and that principle was accepted."
Moemi noted that questions have been raised as to why the government wanted to help the taxi industry with taxpayer money when it did not pay tax.
He said the government was providing relief to many sectors, including unregistered businesses.
"The taxi industry is no exception. They too need to be assisted," he said, adding that the relief was ex gratia.
Moemi also said they were also hoping to use the opportunity presented by Covid-19 to fast-track key issues to be discussed at the planned indaba.
Santaco and the National Taxi Association were part of the initial discussions and no objections were raised to the issues.
A presentation Moemi made to MPs showed the relief-support process has provided an opportunity for formalisation of the taxi industry. It also set out conditions beneficiaries had to meet.
These included formal registration as a business, a business bank account to pay the allowance, registration of the business and a taxi operating licence.
"Included in the proposed taxi relief plan would be the owners, drivers, rank managers, marshals and other associations' workers," read the presentation.
Moemi said they were waiting for the taxi industry to revert back to them by the Thursday deadline. He noted media reports suggesting the industry held a different view that was not communicated to the department.
Moemi also said they knew that a letter was sent to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to the effect that they declare a dispute.
"We will take it from there and be available to take the process forward," he added.
Mbalula stressed that the assistance to the taxi industry was a relief, not funding.
"Government agreed to contribute to the relief of the taxi industry. Relief must be understood that it is not a fund," he said.
Mbalula also said the taxi industry has had a tough time, like other sectors, during the lockdown, especially the long-distance operators.
He said there has been discussions with the taxi industry on how much is to be paid out and the form of payment.
Mbalula, however, hinted that the money to be paid will move from the state's coffers directly to beneficiaries.
He also said despite the murmurings over the relief, he was happy to discuss with the industry.
"There is no need to fight. We have to come to the party. All hands on the deck," Mbalula said.
He insisted that the taxi industry could not be equated to other industries.
"It is unfortunate that we walk away from each other. Government will no longer give a blank cheque on everything. We want a partnership," Mbalula said.