Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula launched the disbursement of Covid-19 relief funds for taxi operators and also confirmed that government is still looking to subsidise the taxi industry.
The industry is set to receive R1,135 billion, which will be distributed by the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), as a once-off payment to taxi operators.
Loss of income
Speaking during a media briefing on Tuesday, Mbalula said the fund is intended to mitigate the negative financial impact suffered by the taxi industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When most sectors of the economy opened up in level 3, demand for public transport remained very low. Almost 20% or more of the taxi industry experienced a total loss of income, particularly the long distance and cross-border operators as a result of the closure of the international borders and prohibition of interprovincial travel,” the minister said.
Mbalula once again indicated that the relief fund is not intended to compensate for loss of income.
The minister said the disbursement of the relief fund was delayed after the industry had raised concerns over on the conditions to pay out the money.
Qualifying operators will receive a once-off ex gratia payment of R5,000 as stated by the directions issued on 2 December.
Mbalula said he hopes all funds will be paid out by March this year.
“We anticipate that if we are to reach all eligible operators calculated on the basis of the 137,000 legal minibus-taxis on our system, 25,000 metered taxis, 1,900 cross border taxis, and approximately 63,188 e-hailing partners. Each operator will qualify for R5,000 in funds,” the minister added.
Applications for the relief will open from Tuesday and is intended for all minibus-taxi operators, metered taxis and e-hailing partners.
E-hailing companies do not qualify.
Qualifying operators will be able to apply for the relief fund online on the Department of Transport’s website or via the assistance of a call agent from Tuesday.
The call centre will be available to operators via a toll-free number.
Taxi operators will have to be a South African citizen or a permanent resident to qualify.
They must also be in possession of a valid operating license or a receipt as proof of renewal of an operational license.
“This is applicable only in instances where the Operating Licence has not been subsequently issued by the relevant Provincial Regulatory Entity [PRE],” Mbalula said.
The operators will also need to be registered with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) for income tax.
Subsidising taxi industry
Meanwhile, Mbalula also revealed that government is still in discussions to establish a subsidy to the taxi industry.
“We are dealing with the matter in terms of taxi subsidy, particularly to the commuter. As you all know that I have a quoted specifically the survey that was conducted by Stats SA, funded by the Department of Transport, which has revealed that the taxi industry is a burden for the poor households.
“It’s very expensive so we have to intervene there. At the present moment we are subsidising the buses and the trains is also a form of intervention of relief for the working class.
“What we are doing now is that we reviewing the subsidy arrangement in the Republic and it is now going to cater for the taxi industry,” he said.
The minister previously said government had aimed to subsidise the taxi industry by 1 April 2021.