Coronavirus | Debt relief lifeline for taxi operators hit by lockdown

Taxi vehicle finance provider SA Taxi will be giving interim repayment assistance to taxi operators to help them honour their financial commitments during the 21-day lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, it said in a statement on Thursday. 

According to SA Taxi - which provides financial support services exclusively to the taxi industry - the payment relief for taxi owners would start on 1 April and be available for the full month. It includes relief from monthly insurance premium payments in April, but cover will be retained during the period. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown would start in the early hours of Friday morning. South Africans will be forbidden to leave their homes except to get urgent medical care or essential supplies, or if they themselves provide an essential service. This seeks to curb infections and transmission as confirmed cases in South Africa surpass 900.

Restrictions have also been placed on public transport. 

The taxi industry forms a core part of the South African economy's public transport system, and is bound to suffer from the lost business, leaving many taxi operators unable to honour financial commitments, including debt.

SA Taxi communications executive Maroba Maduma said in the statement that SA Taxi supported Ramaphosa's decision to implement a 21-day national lockdown to contain the spread and impact of Covid-19 in the country.

"However, as a long-standing partner to the taxi industry, we are acutely aware of the impact this will have on this vital sector and the stress it will place on taxi owners," Maduma said.

The statement said operators' customer accounts must be in good standing and their vehicles must have a fully functioning telematics device for them to qualify.

Operators must not operate during the lockdown period, unless approved to provide transport in support of essential services, the statement reiterated.  

"While it is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen in the next few weeks, we are hopeful that the situation will improve by May, to enable the minibus taxi industry to support our economy in a safe and healthy environment to recover from this 21-day lockdown," Maduma said.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula told South Africans on Wednesday that the only transport that would be permitted to operate during the lockdown would be those transporting essential services and even then, during restricted hours, between 05:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 18:00.

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