Mbalula and the taxi industry find common ground

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Felix Dlangamandla

The government is set to announce amended regulations allowing taxi drivers to carry more passengers. They will also be provided with sanitisers and protective equipment for commuters.

"We cannot, because of the virus, take decisions that will not be sustainable. Take decisions on our toes about subsidy, which we have not looked at and at the same time processed properly as government," said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

He added while he was pleased a national shutdown by the taxi industry had been averted, issues raised by it were being considered by the government.

The taxi industry has complained of suffering losses because of the reduction in the number of passengers it can transport, the lack of protective equipment to hand out to commuters, shortened hours on the road and the government's failure to cushion the blow, which most have suffered due to the new regulations.

READ: Taxi strike called off, Mbalula, Santaco to brief the nation

The regulations are part of government measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic, which has killed tens of thousands worldwide, hit South Africa this month and has already claimed the lives of five people, while 1 353 have been infected.

Mbalula said the government had been in discussions to subsidise and regulate the taxi industry.

"We were looking at the subsidy but got caught up with the virus and [are] dealing with that at the present moment."

He added the government was in a "precarious" position as the virus was an urgent issue that needed immediate attention.

When it came to cushioning the financial blow to many in the taxi industry, Mbalula said some would be assisted through the small businesses department, adding even the government had no financial reserves to assist.

"No one is making money; we are all running at a loss, the government, where we can intervene."

Mbalula said the transport department had briefed the police and defence ministers so they were aware of the changes agreed upon when patrolling and engaging with members of the taxi industry.

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