Government caves in to allow taxis to carry full loads despite Covid-19 threat
Move aimed at averting a national strike by taxi operators
The government has bowed to pressure from the taxi industry to avoid a possible strike by allowing taxis to carry full loads during the national lockdown.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Wednesday taxis would be allowed to carry full loads on condition that all passengers wore masks.
The latest amendment was announced by Mbalula during a media briefing at the MTN Taxi Rank in the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday.
This comes a day after Mbalula assured the nation that there would be no national taxi strike following a meeting he had with taxi associations. Taxi operators had threatened to go on a national strike should the government regulations that only allowed them to carry seven passengers stay in place.
The regulations were meant to assure physical distancing to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
According to the new rules, taxis are allowed a maximum number of 70% of full capacity.
Taxis would now be allowed to operate from 5am to 10am and in the evening from 4pm to 9pm.
“A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 7 passengers. A minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to carry the maximum of 10 passengers.
“A midi-bus permitted to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 15 passengers. A vehicle licensed to carry a maximum of four passengers is limited to carrying 50% of its permissible passenger carrying capacity,” said Mbalula.
“Alternatively, during the lockdown period, all minibus and midi-bus taxi vehicles are permitted to load their maximum 100% passenger loading capacity as provided for in their operating licences, provided that all passengers are wearing masks,” said Mbalula.
Each taxi must make surgical masks or N95 respiratory masks available.
“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.
He commended the taxi industry for their efforts and commitment in playing their part to enable mobility of the poor and vulnerable.
“Despite the economic challenges facing the industry, we were able to reach an agreement that guarantees continuous availability of public transport during the lockdown. We must all appreciate that the measures we introduce to curb the spread of this virus are about preserving human life, and not about our individual, narrow, self-serving interests,” said Mbalula.
He said the country would hold a taxi industry indaba later this year as part of its long-term plan.
“This will include a public transport funding model, which must include a possible subsidy regime, in which the taxi industry is a full participant. Subsequent to these engagements and consultations, we have taken steps to amend directions relating to public transport,” said Mbalula.