‘We can’t afford to disinfect our taxis without Covid-19 relief funds’ - Limpopo operators
Industry objection to conditions attached to government’s relief assistance still under discussion
Limpopo taxi operators say they are not able to regularly disinfect their taxis without the Covid-19 emergency relief funds promised by transport minister Fikile Mbalula last year.
Over R1-billion emergency relief funds are earmarked for the taxi industry to make up for losses suffered during the lockdown.
Speaking to SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE, spokesperson for the Limpopo National Taxi Alliance (LNTA), Frans Kgasago, said there was no way the taxi bosses could afford to disinfect their taxis because business was at its lowest point due to the pandemic.
“There isn’t a lot of business in our sector recently, either because people are afraid of using taxis or they can’t afford to, hence we are requesting the government to assist us since Minister Mbalula promised us,” Kgasago said.
Investigations done by TimesLIVE reveal that it costs a little under R1,000 to disinfect one taxi.
“We are an essential service and we demand that the relief funds promised to the taxi industry be paid as soon as possible,” he continued.
Kgasago bemoaned the conditions set out by Mbalula as a criterion to qualify for the emergency funding.
One of the conditions include that the taxi operations must be formally registered as a business, be tax compliant and register employees with the Unemployment Insurance fund (UIF).
“There are sectors that have received emergency funding without being given difficult conditions. Why is it that the taxi industry is treated like foreigners in their own country?” asked the taxi boss.
TimesLIVE recently reported an alarming surge in Covid-19 related deaths and positive cases at the Polokwane taxi rank in Limpopo following the deaths of four taxi owners and the infection of several taxi drivers in one week.
Ministerial spokesperson Ayanda Allie Paine said the department had received the taxi industry’s concerns regarding some of the conditions attached to government’s relief assistance.
“It is important to note that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is still in discussion with the industry, to find a solution to this impasse.
“In the meantime, the Ministry of Transport wishes to place on record that the funds are still available. The fund is still standing at R1.135-billion as initially announced by the minister to the taxi industry and to the public at large,” said Allie Paine.