Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has slammed the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) after the association warned law enforcement agencies and government that if one vehicle is impounded for loading at 100% capacity on Monday morning, they would bring the country to a standstill.
Santaco’s leadership made the announcement during a virtual briefing on Sunday following what it called a lack of direction from Mbalula.
The council’s resolution goes against government’s COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines that instruct taxis to only load at 70% capacity during level three of the lockdown.
Mbalula’s Spokesperson Ayanda Allie-Paine said: “The minister appeals to the leadership structures of the taxi industry to reconsider their decision to incite lawlessness and place drivers and passengers on a collision course with law enforcement authorities.”
The taxi association has also given the greenlight to all its members to operate long-distance routes without permits for both drivers and commuters.
In a statement on Sunday, Mbalula said: “It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law and forcefully load taxis at 100% capacity and undertake inter-provincial operations without the requisite permits, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled.”
He said law enforcement officers will work to enforce the 70% loading capacity for taxis.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms any call encouraging taxi operators to violate provisions of the law and promote lawlessness. We remain committed to taking forward our engagements and encourage the industry to ensure that any form of protest they embark upon, is within the parameters of the law,” the statement added.
Santaco’s president Phillip Taaibosch said they were also demanding that all taxis that were impounded at the start of the lockdown be released.
“We will not accept any form of impoundment. Operators will have no choice but to park all their taxis countrywide, until the impounded taxis are released, and we are allowed to continue with our work.”
Taaibosch added they would still adhere to health and safety regulations by wearing masks.
“Wearing of masks in taxis is compulsory, sanitation of taxis and commuters as they board taxis and for long-distance operators, marshals must ensure that all boarding commuters are screened and that a proper filing system is kept safe.”
Santaco’s announcement comes after a series of cancellations and postponements of meetings between taxi officials and Mbalula.
Taxi associations are unhappy with government’s proposed R1.1 billion cash injection, which will see each driver receive R5,000 each.