Covid-19: Mbalula takes sho't left on meeting with taxi operators

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Minister Fikile Mbalula
Minister Fikile Mbalula
Ntwaagae Seleka, News24
  • A meeting between taxi representatives and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula over loading capacity and inter-provincial travel restrictions has been postponed.  
  • This is so that the National Coronavirus Command Council can discuss their proposals and make a decision.
  • Taxi operators are not happy about it dragging on for so long and are holding an urgent meeting to decide the way forward.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula cancelled a meeting planned for Sunday with taxi operators who have been negotiating to be able carry more passengers, and to cross provincial borders during the coronavirus restrictions.

"The minister needs to hear from the [National  Coronavirus Command Council] what their final decision will be regarding the inter-provincial travel, as well as the 100% loading capacity that the taxi industry is asking for," said Mbalula's spokesperson Ayanda Allie-Payne.

"That's only going to happen on Tuesday," she said, adding that any decision will still need to be signed off on as a directive. 

She said that Mbalula did not have the power to make and sign off on these decisions by himself.

The postponement dismayed taxi operators who feel they have gone the extra mile to keep the economy going by providing public transport during the pandemic, particularly since trains have not been running.

They say their own income has taken a hit, particularly during lockdown Level 5, when their operating hours and movements were severely restricted.

Western Cape SA National Taxi Council provincial secretary Nazeem Abdurahman told News24 that they had lost a lot of income from operating with fewer passengers. 

They have proposed that, if passengers wear masks, use sanitiser and windows are left open in the taxi, it should be safe to run at 100% capacity for trips no longer than 30 minutes. 

READ | Taxis in KwaZulu-Natal plan to defy lockdown regulations

They also feel that the proposed compensation of income losses during coronavirus of around R5 000 per operator is far too little, given how hard they have worked to keep people moving and how much they have lost by the enforced 70% passenger limit. 

They also argue that reducing the number of people on longer distance taxis was inconsistent with allowing flights, where people sat next to each other in confined spaces and could not open a window.

Santaco national spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said the taxi operators would conduct a virtual meeting at 14:00 on Sunday to discuss Mbalula's bailing on Sunday's meeting. 

They would hold a press conference hopefully at 15:00 so that commuters would know what to expect for Monday morning. The spectre of a taxi strike plays havoc with workers' travel plans and work attendance records.

Allie-Payne reiterated that Mbalula did not have the power to make any decisions by himself - they had to go through the NCCC.

She said that the more than R1 billion the operators had been offered was, however, "not negotiable".

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