Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is set to announce a short-term government backed taxi industry relief fund sometime this week meant to help mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic on individual taxi owners.
During a media briefing update on the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown regulations on Friday in Pretoria, Mbalula stopped short of revealing the “big announcement” he said he would make to the industry.
“We are going to address the issue of the taxi industry (next week) and we will make a big announcement in that regard,” said Mbalula.
“We have already briefed the industry leaders...all of them, including (Phillip) Taaibosch (president of Santaco) and many others,” added a visibly excited Mbalula as he veered from his prepared speech.
Several reliable sources in the taxi industry privy to the situation, who declined to be identified because they were not permitted to speak to the media, confirmed that Mbalula would announce the establishment of the fund.
The money, according to these reliable sources, would be paid directly to the bank accounts of the taxi owners.
Mbalula’s pending announcement of the fund follows several behind the scene meetings he held with national and provincial leaders of the National Taxi Alliance and South African Taxi Council - the two main taxi organizations in the country - before the country went into lockdown in March. The parties discussed a wide range of issues affecting the industry, chief among them the absence of government subsidy to the mini bus taxi industry.
A Gauteng member of the national executive committee for one of the two taxi bodies said they expected Mbalula to explain how the funds would be paid to taxi owners - many of whom have been severely affected by the pandemic.
“We have held several intense and honest meetings with minister Mbalula over the past few months on how we feel government could help fund the taxi industry. But now, with the Covid-19 we have agreed that the compensation on financial terms to owners is urgent. That, we feel, is fair in the short term,” said one taxi leader.
Another provincial taxi official from KwaZulu-Natal, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said only taxi owners with legitimate and legal operating licences would receive payment from the relief fund, adding that there would also be an announcement on how other employees within the industry - such as taxi drivers, queue marshals and office administrators would benefit from the said fund in the long run.
“We gave the minister enough time to go consult with other ministers from other departments. I am quite certain we will most definitely hear him talk about the emergency funding for taxi owners only,” said the KZN official.
Lungiswa Mabija, Eastern Cape Santaco provincial chairperson, said Mbalula should have made the announcement weeks ago, but requested more time to consult with ministers from other departments.
“This is the best thing Mbalula can do for us. In fact, he wanted the money to be paid to our Santaco national office but as provincial leaders we opposed that move. We are happy that the money will now be paid directly to operators,” said Mabija.
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