We are not anarchists, National Taxi Association tells parliament
The National Taxi Association (NTA) on Tuesday told the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport that the industry is at risk of collapse if proper mitigation efforts are not made soon.
The association was speaking during a virtual meeting chaired by Mosebenzi Zwane, who assured the taxi industry leaders that he intended to hear their concerns and try to bring about an amicable solution.
NTA president Francis Masitsa said they were thankful to the Covid-19 pandemic for finally enabling them to secure an audience with transport minister Fikile Mbalula, who he claimed has never been interested in sitting down with them.
“The minister has been absent and missing in action. The total shutdown had a very serious knock-on effect on the taxi industry. During level 5, taxis did not operate - only about 10% operated for transporting essential workers,” Masitsa told the committee.
“You can imagine the shortfall that the taxi industry had incurred. We have continued to engage in an honest and sincere way with the minister and the department.”
He said the R1.3bn relief fund was not enough.
“Taxis carry 15 passengers. The instalment range from R15,000 to R16,000 per month. We appreciate that payment holiday has now lapsed. We have approached the minister and asked that it was high time that our loading capacity be restored,” said Masitha, adding that as an industry they are still awaiting positive feedback from the department.
He pleaded with the committee to put pressure on the department to ensure that they are formalised.
“Formalisation of the industry is what we have been yearning for. No minister [of transport] was willing to truly engage. We want it as early as yesterday,” he said.
“We are not being unreasonable. If this [regulation to have taxis load at 70% capacity] continues, what will then be there to pay instalments, feed our kids and pay drivers? It’s not sustainable - it cannot be done this way.
“We are not anarchists. At no stage will the NTA agitate disobedience, promote sabotage and take any position. Until the minister reports back to us on the progress, I must appeal to your judgment and honesty to help the taxi industry. If we are expected to operate at 70%, it’s as good as declaring the taxi industry dead.
“We had stated it clearly, that this means the death of the taxi industry. We were more than willing to continue with the 70% and government will subsidise us, but it said no.”
Masitsa questioned why the airline industry is allowed to operate at full capacity and the taxi industry is stifled - adding that the coronavirus initially came into the country on an airplane.
Members of the committee asked questions that sought to gain a clearer picture of the industry struggles.