Covid-19 | Government offers taxi industry R1.135bn relief package

19 June 2020 - 12:02 By Shonisani Tshikalange
'Reaching agreement for this relief support for the taxi industry was a difficult process,' says transport minister Fikile Mbalula.
'Reaching agreement for this relief support for the taxi industry was a difficult process,' says transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

The government has offered the taxi industry a relief package of R1.135bn.

Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula said on Friday the government had agreed to provide relief to the taxi industry in the form of a one-off ex gratia payment to taxi operators.

“Reaching agreement for this relief support for the taxi industry was a difficult process that involved extensive lobbying and convincing the relevant authorities on the importance and need for this fund,” Mbalula said.

He added, “The department of transport will finalise its work and we will in due course announce the date on which payments in respect of the available relief will start.”

Mbalula said the department agreed with the National Treasury to designate revenue service Sars as the implementing agency to register and administer the relief to the taxi industry as it has  proven capacity in handling transactions of this nature.

“We will open our electronic gateways on eNatis (electronic National Traffic Information System) and Olas (Operating Licence Administration System) systems to Sars to enable them to validate vehicle and operating licence information, as part of this process to ensure that there is no fraud in the distribution of funds to beneficiaries,” he said.

Mbalula said the government had considered the effects of the lockdown regulations on the taxi industry, specifically  the 30% reduction in passengers and prohibition on inter-provincial travel, among others.

He said the relief support process provided an opportunity to advance the formalisation of the taxi industry.

“This process is a subject of an ongoing engagement with the leadership structures of the taxi industry. We have taken note of the objections of the industry to the effect that the relief support and the formalisation processes should be delinked,” he said.

Mbalula said the industry had said it was vehemently opposed to the conditions attached to the relief support.

“The conditions set down by government include, among others, that the taxi operations must be formally registered as business entities; the registered business must have a business banking account into which the relief allowance will be paid; and that these businesses must be registered for income tax and other applicable taxes,” he said.

The minister said the industry had further requested that the department review the regulations and directions to allow for the loading capacity to be increased from the current 70% to 100%, with all passengers wearing masks and with regular sanitisation of vehicles.

“This is not a matter that the department can finalise on its own and will need to be discussed by the NatJoints and the national coronavirus command council” he said.

Mbalula said the industry had also requested the department to allow inter-provincial and cross-border travel.

He said this matter would be referred to the command council.

Meanwhile, Mbalula said Metrorail services were expected to resume on July 1, subject to stringent safety measures.