The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) says its members will continue to operate their businesses as usual, suggesting it would be difficult to halt their operations following a call by President Cyril Ramaphosa discouraging "non-essential" travel by air, taxis and bus to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Addressing the nation on Sunday night, Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster as the country's number of positive Covid-19 cases increased to the 61.
The head of state announced a number of measures, including a partial travel ban and the closure of a number of ports of entry.
Santaco secretary Ralph Jones told News24 that while they respected Ramaphosa’s call, their hands were tied because the business of ferrying millions of people from one place to the other every day was critical.
Jones said many taxi operators had bills to pay and if they heeded the president’s call, their families would go hungry.
He said many owners were still paying off their vehicles and they would only be able to stop operating if the government or banks cleared their debts.
Jones warned that the country’s economy would be severely affected if they halted their daily operations.
"Government must remember that we are running a privately-owned business sector on our own. At the end of the day, South Africans need to go to work and home daily.
"We are also worried about the spread of the virus and have been calling for calm in our operators and everybody who is involved in the sector, including our taxi marshals, vendors and cleaners at all our taxi ranks.
"We don’t know where all this brouhaha is coming from, especially people distributing fake news," Jones said.
He said there had been other health scares in the country before but there had not been as much of an outcry as with the current concern over Covid-19.
"People must go to work, and they need us to ferry them. We owe our cars, will they [government] pay for our cars? If we don’t operate, fuel businesses will be severely affected. Workers are also going to be affected and other companies will be affected too. We will continue working and we will be careful," Jones said.
"We are going to promote awareness about the virus in all our places of work. We are going to partner with government in promoting awareness campaigns. We need to meet as government and engage on the way forward."
Meanwhile, bus company Putco promised that it would be placing posters in all its buses to inform its passengers about the virus.
Spokesperson Witness Mhongo-Chuene said Putco management would be meeting on Monday at 05:00 to discuss Ramaphosa’s announcement.