Minibus taxis now allowed to carry full loads if passengers wear masks

Following strike threats by the industry, transport minister Fikile Mbalula says taxis can load their maximum capacity if all passengers wear masks

01 April 2020 - 16:33 By Denis Droppa
Minibus taxis are now allowed to load their full capacity of passengers during the lockdown, provided that everyone wears masks.
Minibus taxis are now allowed to load their full capacity of passengers during the lockdown, provided that everyone wears masks.
Image: Supplied

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has relaxed the restrictions on public transport vehicles during the lockdown after taxi operators threatened to go on a national strike.

Minibus taxis are now allowed to load their full capacity, provided that all passengers are wearing masks, he said. These must be either surgical masks or N95 respiratory masks.

At a briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Mbalula said when passengers aren’t wearing masks, the following public transport vehicles must reduce the number of maximum passengers to 70% of the licensed capacity:

  • a 10-seater minibus is limited to carry a maximum of seven passengers;
  • a 15-seater minibus may carry a maximum of 10 passengers;
  • a 22-seater midi-bus may carry a maximum of 15 passengers; and
  • a four-seater vehicle may carry a maximum of two passengers.

Operators who fall under the governing structure of the taxi industry in the country, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), had earlier announced they were on a go-slow in response to the government’s regulation around the Covid-19 response.

“We require public transport operators to adhere to the directions on sanitising vehicles and put measures in place to give effect to social distancing at all material times,” said Mbalula.

It follows his announcement on Sunday that the operating times that taxis were allowed to operate had been extended from 5am until 8pm from Monday March 30 until Friday April 3 to cater to the transportation needs of the beneficiaries of social grants.

The designated time frames for operation were previously from 5am to 9am and again from 4pm to 8pm.

Grant recipients are required to carry their ID documents and SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) cards when travelling on public transport to assist law enforcement efforts.

“Public transport remains one of our biggest risk areas in the spread of the virus,” said Mbalula at Wednesday’s briefing. “We must therefore do everything in our power to protect both the citizens who rely on public transport and those who operate the system from exposure and possible infection.

“We indicated from the onset that we are on a steep learning curve and we will regularly review the measure we introduce from time to time.”

He said that after engaging with the leadership of Santaco and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA), an agreement was reached that guarantees continuous availability of public transport during the lockdown period.

He added that after the lockdown, priority will be given to the National Taxi Indaba to be held later this year, which will tackle pressing and strategic issues facing the taxi industry, which continues to operate on the fringes of the formal economy despite having more than 60% market share of all public transport modes.

“The taxi indaba will seek to find consensus on a sustainable economic empowerment model. In addition, we will review the effectiveness of current interventions, which include the taxi recapitalisation programme and the rollout of the integrated public transport networks,” said Mbalula.

He said taxi violence must become a relic of the past, adding that the indaba will focus on regulation and ensuring that government ensures effective regulation.

“The industry must commit to the rule of law. We have no doubt that the taxi indaba will emerge with a blueprint of an industry that is at peace with itself, able to sustain itself beyond government incentives and subject to the rule of law.”