Mbalula faces potential showdown over R1bn taxi relief
Cape Town - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula faces a potential showdown with role-players in the taxi industry after they refused to accept his department’s R1.135 billion relief to help ease the impact of Covid-19.
On Friday, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said the amount would not cover the financial losses suffered by the industry.
The industry sought R20 000 per taxi, but Mbalula said the government would only offer a R5 000 once-off payment as the government could not afford paying out more than R1.135bn.
“Others are saying R20 000 per taxi; it is not possible because if you calculate that, it is R10bn. Government does not have that,” he said.
The taxi relief was not a compensation for a loss of income, Mbalula added.
Santaco spokesperson Thabiso Molelekwa said the R5 000 per taxi from government would still have to be divided among e-hailing services, Uber, taxi marshals and drivers, so taxi operators would only receive as much as R2 800.
“We find the offer quite low for the industry and operators have lost money,” said Molelekwa.
“We estimate what will go to the taxi operators is between R2 500 and R2 800, which is little. We will still go back to (Mbalula) next week and come up with proposals.”
Mbalula said the National Coronavirus Command Council has supported his department’s taxi relief decision.
“The National Coronavirus Command Council has been briefed about the R1.135bn and it understands that government cannot go beyond the quantum of R1.135bn,” he added.
Mbalula said many industries in the country have been negatively affected by the pandemic and lockdown and several businesses face possible closure, yet the taxi industry continues to operate.
He also said that there should not be any shutdown as threatened by the taxi industry, which has even experienced fare increases of as much as 25% along some routes across the country.
“There is no need for the shutdown. The government will not get anything beyond this even if you shutdown. It will shatter the working class and the taxi industry. We don’t need a shutdown. We strongly discourage a shutdown,” added Mbalula.
He said he hoped any fare increases would be fair on commuters, many of whom are already battling financially, and not above 100%, as previously threatened by some of the associations.
If the increases were not fair on the public, Mbalula added, he would take the matter to the Competition Commission.