Long-distance taxi operators have suffered the most during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said on Monday, amid discussions following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that they are to travel at 70% capacity.
Santaco spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said while they welcomed the regulations allowing minibuses making short trips to operate at 100% capacity, they would take their concerns surrounding the continued impact on long-distance drivers to the department of transport.
“The announcement came at a time when we were already in engagement with the department, so we want to continue to channel our issues into this ongoing process,” he said, following a meeting of Santaco’s leadership.
It was hoped that together they would find ways to “cushion” the strain on the livelihoods of those in the industry who were “hardest hit”.
Last month, taxi drivers blockaded several Gauteng roads protesting against what they believe to be insufficient government relief offered to the industry.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula himself had admitted the decision to avail R1.135 billion to the industry as relief support was “too little” to compensate for the lockdown.
Government, however, did not have more money to give, he had said.
Two weeks ago, Santaco and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) went back to 100% loading capacity, saying government was not taking the industry seriously after multiple meetings to discuss their grievances were postponed.
Mbalula at the time said it was unfortunate and regrettable that taxi operators decided to violate Covid-19 lockdown regulations and “forcefully load taxis at 100% capacity” as well as undertake inter-provincial operations without the requisite permits, rather than “await a decision on the matters they have tabled”.
During his address on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the wearing of masks and opening of windows would be required when travelling by taxi.