'Taxi industry vehemently opposed to conditions' on R1.135bn relief: Mbalula
Another stand-off is looming between the minister of transport and the taxi industry -which has rejected the conditions government has tabled for it to access R1.135bn in relief funds.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula will also ask the national command council (NCC) to consider amending regulations to allow for long-distance and cross-border travel as well as full passenger capacity in taxis.
Mbalula announced on Friday that the government had signed off on the R1.135bn for the industry, which would amount to about R5,000 per vehicle.
Strict conditions will, however, be attached to the relief fund, including that applicants be South African, registered with the department of transport and registered as a business entity for income tax.
The relief funds will be administered by revenue service Sars.
Last week the Sunday Times reported that the taxi industry had told the minister that it sought more than R4bn, which would amount to about R20,000 per taxi. The minster said on Friday that the ask was an impossible one given how strained the fiscus already is.
“The taxi industry is vehemently opposed to conditions,” the minister said. “The industry told me to my face that they don’t agree with that and I have told them that we will not move from that. The government said it will not move from that quantum. We started these negotiations at R800m and we were able to move to this R1.135bn.”
Mbalula says the NCC will have to apply itself to the proposal on carrying capacity and long-distance travel as the department could not make that decision alone.
The minster has also advised the industry against embarking on a shutdown, saying that it would be counterproductive.
“Anyone who proposes a shutdown is counterproductive, it will not work. It will shatter the working class and the taxi industry which has already been highly affected by the lockdown from an economic point of view. We don’t need a shutdown and we strongly discourage a shutdown in this instance because there will be no money that will come from anywhere.”
He said the government had already made a special dispensation for the informal industry which ferries more than five million people per day.
Mbalula said that government had gone over and beyond with the R1.135bn package while other industries have received a maximum of R350m.
The minister has also emphasised the need for the industry to formalise, to provide protection for it in the future.
He said that if the industry had been formalised, its drivers, marshals and other staff would have benefited from the UIF and other relief measures offered by government.
“Formalisation will help the industry a great deal. We were raised by the taxi industry, it put food on the table. It is an industry which requires intervention.”