Johannesburg - Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has finally come out and confirmed that the department will offer financial assistance to the taxi industry, to make up for the losses it suffered during the lockdown.
Addressing various stakeholders earlier this week during a Covid-19 testing and screening campaign in Ivory Park, Tembisa, Mbalula said the government was finalising the modalities to support the taxi industry.
The taxi industry has had a drastic drop in the number of passengers since the government announced a national lockdown on March 26, which restricted people’s movement in order to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under level 4 of the lockdown, taxis are allowed to operate between 5am and 7pm daily and are limited to only carry 70% of their licensed capacity.
However, there are many taxis that operate in full capacity, in breach of the lockdown regulations.
Mbalula said the government has acknowledged that the taxi industry has been hit hard because of lockdown regulations and has agreed in principle to offer financial support, details of which would be made known to the industry in the coming weeks.
SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) Gauteng chairperson Buti Mkhonza welcomed Mbalula’s commitment.
“Government and our national leadership are working on the modalities on how an operator will be paid according to their permits.
“We are very happy that Mbalula has confirmed that in a week’s time he will come back to us and
explain how they will assist us,” said Mkhonza.
Taxi drivers and owners who have suffered as a result of the reduction in the number of passengers they are allowed to transport have welcomed the news of the financial assistance from the government.
Taxi driver Steve Ramatsoma said he and his colleagues have been struggling to make ends meet since the lockdown.
“I drive a seven-seater Toyota Avanza and we had to reduce the number of commuters to five. Things are tough now because we have to pay for road trips and also for petrol.
“Again, we also have to be paid, and the income is now much less than before,” he said.
Setjhaba Makhaola, 31, a taxi driver from Palm Springs said Mbalula’s announcement of the pending financial support for the industry gave him hope.
“The relief will be helpful because business is bad. We even struggle to find passengers because they are on lockdown. A taxi can wait for almost two hours to get six people.
“I get paid between R100 and R200 a week because we are no longer making a profit.
“It is demoralising and I work because I have nowhere else to go,” he said.
Taxi owner Lesego Makgakgane said: “Things were tough during the past two months. I have been struggling to pay my employees and also support my family.
“This (relief fund) will help a lot because many of us will be able to service our taxis and also have enough food for our families,” said the 36-year-old entrepreneur.
“Before the lockdown there were times when I made close to R10 000 a month.
“But now I make up to R4000 a month and from that I have to take care of the business, pay my employees and also support my family.
“We have lost a lot of money during this period,” lamented Makgakgane.