Tshwane taxi operators refuse to transport commuters at 100% capacity
Pretoria - Taxi operators in Mabopane, Winterveld and Soshanguve refused to ferry commuters at 100% capacity, saying it would put at risk the lives of people.
Their stance was defiant to calls by the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) and National Taxi Alliance for operators across the country to flout the government's Covid-19 regulation that limited the capacity of passengers in public transport to 70%.
The associations have been at loggerheads with the transport minister Fikile Mbalula over the government's R1.1 billion offer to ease their financial strain during the Covid-19 period.
Taxi drivers rejected the offer, saying they wanted to be paid at least R20 000 to make up for loss of profit during the lockdown.
The government wanted to pay them R5 000.
Drivers were expected to load at full capacity as a gesture to express their dissatisfaction.
Peter Mogadingwane, who operates a taxi from Mabopane to Madidi under the Mashata taxi association, said it was understandable why drivers flayed the government for not coming to the party over the Covid-19 fund.
However, he believed loading passengers at 100% capacity to defy the government's regulation was unwise.
"We can't load 100% capacity because we don't want to be arrested. If we do that they are definitely going to be arrested andnd where will Santaco be when we are in trouble with the law?
He said those who loaded at 100% in Joburg did so at their own risk. "At this taxi rank (Mabopane) we obey what the government says," he said.
He, however, lamented the fact that the restriction on loading passengers at 70% capacity hit operators hard on the pocket.
"We are unable to afford petrol and we know that this coming month the price would increase and things are going to be tougher," Mogadingwane said.
Tshepo Motlhatlhaego, a taxi operator under Mawiga taxi association, said it would be risky to load taxis to full capacity because that might cause the virus to spread very wildly.
"We are told that if a person is infected that person can spread the virus to those around him. Loading at 100% capacity is a risk we are not willing to take because immediately if we do that we can kill many people,"he said.
Commuters also shared mixed reactions to the call for taxis to load at 100% capacity.
Sizwe Sodladla said the government must be considerate to the taxi industry by allowing it to load at 100%.
"Taxi drivers have been financially affected by the regulation and that has increased the level of poverty in many households. The government must think of fighting hunger and respect other people's livelihood," he said.
Minky Mokoena from Soshanguve echoed sentiments that public transport must load at 70% because she was scared of contracting the virus.
"We know that it is difficult to control the spread of the virus, but I think the measures that we have put in place like loading at 70% could assist in preventing its spread,"she said.