There will be no taxi shutdown, Mbalula assures South Africans

31 March 2020 - 18:19 By aphiwe deklerk
Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of a government subsidy to help the taxi industry survive the lockdown, saying the state did not have the money.
Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of a government subsidy to help the taxi industry survive the lockdown, saying the state did not have the money.
Image: Sunday Times

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has assured South Africans that there will no longer be a “shutdown” by the taxi industry following a meeting he had with taxi associations.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Mbalula said he was optimistic that there was an understanding between the taxi industry and the government that the outbreak of Covid-19 was beyond their control.

He said that following the meeting with the industry, the strike will no longer go ahead.

The threat of a strike came after the government placed stringent measures as part of the nationwide lockdown. These included travel restrictions to allow commuting only for essential services and a decreased number of passengers allowed per trip.

This meant that taxi owners would take a financial hit.

The Gauteng Health Department started screenings, tracing and testing for Covid-19 in the township of Alexandra on March 31 2020. The Johannesburg township confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on March 30 2020. President Ramaphosa announced a large-scale medical management programme of 10 000 workers would be deployed across SA to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Mbalula said his department would gazette new directives on Wednesday to deal specifically with the taxi industry.

But he ruled out the possibility of a government subsidy to help the taxi industry to survive, saying the state did not have the money.

However, he said there were long-term plans to subsidise the industry.

“We did not plan to be where we are in terms of the coronavirus. It’s beyond us, in the sense that the concerns that the taxi industry is raising are matters that are on our agenda we are attending to,” said Mbalula.

He said that at this stage nobody is making money, but the government had to deal with the emergency.

“Government can’t take a decision within its coffers and say, 'We have got this money that we can invest in the taxi industry to address the loss.' We don’t have that money,” said Mbalula.

He further hinted at the possibility that the government would announce a relaxation of conditions for the operation of taxis on Wednesday, but he did not expand on this.

The minister said it must be understood that transportation was not for everyone and only for working performing essential services.

“Public transport, like all other transport, is prohibited ... We don’t expect citizens to travel long distances to get groceries.”

With SA under a nationwide lockdown, in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, streets and busy spots in Cape Town and Johannesburg are emptying. The bustle of life at iconic SA places is now a mere shadow of what it was. We take a comparative look at these places before and after the country's national lockdown was implemented.


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