Mbalula said that the R1.135 billion allocated to the taxi industry could not account for the astronomical losses the industry has suffered.
Government has deemed it appropriate to set aside R1 billion in the form of a relief package for the taxi industry, which has voiced strong calls to be included in relief efforts despite not being a formal industry.
Transport Minster Fikile Mbalula made the announcement at a briefing for his department on Friday 19 June, and said that in making the decision, government had considered the enormous losses the sector had incurred, as well as the fact that the restrictions placed on it during the lockdown were severe enough to render nearly half of taxi fleets unable to operate.
Mbalula also said that he would be gunning to return to the taxi industry their ability to carry 100% of their passenger limits, and allow for interprovincial travel.
How to apply for taxi relief package:
Mbalula said that taxi operators would need to ensure that the following affairs are in order to ensure that they are eligible for the grant.
- Must be formally registered as a business entity;
- Must be registered for income tax;
- Must have a business bank account;
- Employees must be registered with the UIF;
- Must be in possession of a valid operating licence or receipt of an application for one;
- must be a South African citizen.
He said that further announcements would be released that provide details on how the funds will be distributed and, as well as more information on how to apply.
The package equates to around R5 000 per taxi, which falls well short of the South African National Taxi Association’s (Santaco) request for R20 000 per taxi.
“There is no way we can account for the loss of income, unfortunately this will only be a once-off payment,” he said.
He said that a further R200 million had been added to the package since Santaco rejected a previous offer of R800 million.
Taxis play crucial role in economy
Mbalula explained that the decision to afford the informal transport sector a relief package came as a result of the fact that it has suffered unprecedented losses, yet for the most part has complied with the restrictions placed on it.
He said that the fund would amount in total to R1.135 billion rand, and said that this should not be seen as a measure to mitigate losses, but rather as a device to provide urgent assistance to taxi operators.
“We have agreed to an ex gratia payment to taxi operators. This is not a relief for lost income during lockdown, it is a relief package to assist the taxi drivers in order for them to continue operating,” he said.
Mbalula listed some key figures from the taxi business, saying that in total, taxis complete 15.6 million journeys on a daily basis. He added that the sector generates in excess of R40 billion per annum.
Mbalula to campaign for full reopening
Mbalula also said that he would be campaigning for taxis to be given the green-light to return to 100% capacity. Taxis currently have to operate at 70% passenger capacity due to the risks associated with overcrowding fuelling the spread of COVID-19. He also said he would punt to ensure that taxis are able to travel inter-provincially.
“They have requested that the capacity is increased from 70-100%. This is not a matter that the department of transport can finalise on its own, we will need to consult with the NCC.”
“We believe that we must open up 100%, we believe that we must open up for long distance.”
He said that taxi drivers must continue to abide by strict health and safety protocols, and ensure that all passengers wear masks and that hands are sanitised as money is passed around.
“The mask is uncomfortable, but when you are in the taxi you need to just close your mouth and keep quiet,” he said.