More relief measures for taxi operators hit by Covid-19 lockdown

27 March 2020 - 10:26
By Brenwin Naidu
SA Taxi announced it would help operators weather tough conditions after collective efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Image: Waldo Swiegers SA Taxi announced it would help operators weather tough conditions after collective efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Finance and insurance services provider SA Taxi announced it would help operators weather tough conditions after collective efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

This comes amid a national 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, which took effect from midnight on March 26.

In a statement, SA Taxi said it would “implement interim debt repayment assistance measures to help certain of its minibus taxi operators to navigate their financial commitments” during the period of limited trade.

During an inter-ministerial briefing earlier this week, minister of transport Fikile Mbalula confirmed that operators of minibus taxis, metered taxis and e-hailing services would be permitted to continue working under strict limitations.

Among them are designated time frames for operation, from 5am to 9am and again from 4pm to 8pm, as well as an order that responsibility must be taken for disinfecting vehicles and carrying a reduced number of passengers, while enforcing adequate social distancing.

Mbalula also promised a three-month repayment holiday for transport providers whose vehicles are financed under the National Taxi Finance programme rolled out by the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa).

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Meanwhile, industry body South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) assured Mbalula it would adhere to lockdown regulations, despite reports to the contrary, that it had intended for its members to operate as normal.

After engagement with the head of the organisation, Phillip Taaibosch, the minister issued a statement saying, “I wish to reassure the nation that we do not expect any lawlessness, in the form of defiance of the law, which may lead to the state exerting its authority. This is a commitment I have been given by the president of Santaco.”

Maroba Maduma, communications executive at SA Taxi, explained that while the company fully supports the decision taken by the president, it is “acutely aware of the impact this will have on this vital sector and the stress it will place on taxi owners".

He added, “To qualify, customer accounts must be in good standing, or vehicles must have a fully functioning telematics device and must not operate during the lockdown period, unless approved to provide transport in support of essential services.”

Maduma said, “it would be impossible to say with any certainty what will happen in the next few weeks”, although he said the firm was hopeful the situation would improve by May, enabling the minibus taxi industry to support the nation as it recovers from the pause on nearly all economic activities.

The SA Taxi website says it finances 31,543 of the estimated 250,000 taxis on South African roads.