Taxi commuters 'scary' experiences of being at mercy of 100% loading capacity
Cape Town – Taxi operators across the country have this week reverted to 100% capacity loading for the first time since the start of the lockdown in March.
Initially, taxis were only allowed 50% capacity, but this was later eased, and a 70% capacity loading was implemented.
At the time, the regulation stated that a minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to seven passengers, a minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to 10 passengers, a midibus permitted to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, is limited to 15 passengers, a vehicle licensed to carry four passengers is limited to 50% of its permissible passenger carrying capacity.
However, a breakdown in talks between South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the national Department of Transport over the relief for taxis has now led to Santaco calling on all operators to load at 100% capacity pending outcome of a meeting the body will be having with the Department of Transport early next week. Santaco rejected government's R5 000 relief fund offer per taxi, demanding R20 000 per taxi.
They also rejected the 70% capacity regulation, citing that domestic flights were allowed to operate at full capacity. With the acceleration of the virus, Weekend Argus spoke to taxi commuters to find out how they felt about the decision given the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections.
Zolile Tom, a retail store employee in the Milnerton area, said he had no choice but to adhere to the “rules laid out by the taxi bosses".
“It is uncomfortable and scary at the same time. Taking the train is not an option, the bus stop is too far from where I live, so it is not safe for me. My only option is the taxi.
"Sitting four-four, windows closed with a mask on is very difficult. The mask makes it very hard to breathe, and it sometimes feels like it is causing me to have shortness of breath rather than anything else, but I have to keep it on because I have people on either shoulder.
“Taxi bosses are greedy and inconsiderate, people are dying every day from this virus, it is not as though they were told not to operate, they are just ruthless,” said the father of two from Khayelitsha.
Concerned for her health and that of her loved ones, 38-year-old domestic worker, Olwethu Zwide said her main concern was that she only moves between home and work.
Her primary mode of transportation is a taxi. She is now afraid that with the lack of social distancing, she may be at risk of contracting the virus while travelling between the two.
“We do what we can to protect ourselves in the home, but who is responsible and who is to blame when our very own government allows itself to be held to ransom by a bunch of non-tax paying hooligans? For many of us, public transportation, taxis, is the only means of getting around and getting to work,” added Zwide.
However, a 33-year-old call centre agent who wished to remain anonymous, said he agreed with the move by taxi operators as it meant less time waiting for taxis.
“We don't have cars, employers don't accept or want to understand late coming so if taxis fill to capacity, it means more people will be able to get to work faster. Having to stand for hours at the taxi rank in this cold weather is no child's play,” he said.