Government did not buckle under taxi industry pressure, says Mkhize

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has refuted claims that the government is bowing to pressure from the taxi industry.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has refuted claims that the government is bowing to pressure from the taxi industry.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times.

There has been no capitulation by the government under pressure from the taxi industry.

This is according to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who was speaking on Monday in the wake of an announcement from President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night that taxis could be fully loaded for short distances.

The minister was responding to a question during a media briefing, in which he was asked whether the government was capitulating because it did not want to be at loggerheads with the taxi industry.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa announced that taxis undertaking local trips would be permitted to increase their capacity to 100%, while long-distance taxis would not be allowed to exceed 70% occupancy.

This was on condition that “new risk-mitigation protocols related to masks, vehicle sanitising and open windows are followed”.

“We had a thorough discussion with the department of transport to look at what the issues are and what the possibilities are,” said Mkhize.

He said transport minister Fikile Mbalula had raised the comments that had been brought up by the taxi industry that they would insist on 100% load levels.

“Actually, once we had sat down and met with them, that matter got off the table. They were actually prepared to understand what we were raising as the real concerns. And when they understood it, then we were able to try and approach the matter from the point of objective information that we had available.

“There has not been a question of capitulating in this matter.” 

Mkhize said when the matter was first raised, there had been a standoff between Mbalula and the taxi industry.

He said the issues raised by the industry were tabled to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), which then tasked him and the health teams to meet Mbalula and evaluate the issues that were being put on the table.

“Having done so, we then called on the taxi associations. We went through with the discussion.”

He said during discussions, the taxi bosses had been understanding in so far as the main issues were concerned.

“Actually, what really made the leaders in both [the SA National Taxi Council] and the [National Taxi Alliance] to understand the issue was when we took them through the presentation which was led by [Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee chairperson] Prof [Salim] Abdool Karim to show them where the problems were,” he said.

“At the end, they were actually quite appreciative of the issues.

“At the time we were discussing it, it was quite clear that our approach to explaining the dangers [and] the risks that are associated with ... Covid-19, they actually understood it better — and it has improved their approach in terms of how to co-operate, as we asked for particular conditions to be imposed in the way the taxi industry is run.”

Mkhize said the government had to provide the best advice and solutions it could under the circumstances.

“At the end, there may be solutions which may not be consistent from one setting to the other, but we really tried to do our best in this case.”

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