The taxi industry, which encompasses one of the country’s biggest modes of transport, is currently operating at a loss as a result of the 21-day lockdown period.
“The Ministry and Department of Transport has been engaged with the process of consultations with the view of finding a solution to a challenge raised by the taxi industry resulting from reduction to permitted loading capacity, intended to promote social distancing within public transport,” Minister of Transport Fikile Mbulula said in a statement.
“The unintended consequence of this reduction was an industry operating at a loss as a result of these regulations. The regulations on COVID-19 lockdown prescribed a 50% loading capacity.”
Proposals for a 70% loading capacity for minibus taxis were considered, as well as a proposal for a 100% loading capacity. This option would come with the compulsory mitigation measure of the prescribed N95 Respiratory Mask as a pre-condition for all passengers.
“Ministerial directions were issued to this effect. We have since received a number of enquiries and queries from members of the public on the mitigation measures. The concerns were primarily around the 100% loading capacity and the utilisation of masks as a mitigation measure,” Mbulula said.
“The public was without comfort with these measures and urged that we reconsider. After our announcement of catering for 100%, there was a public outcry about the impact of such an arrangement to the health and safety of public transport users. We took these issues seriously and engaged with key stakeholders, resulting in a consensus of maximizing the loading capacity to 70%.”
The Ministry and the Department have since reviewed this measure and will only apply a 70% loading capacity for minibus taxis.
“We urge the taxi industry to accept these declared measures. New Ministerial directions to this effect will be published in due course for immediate implementation,” the Minister added.
Mbulula has therefore rescinded the Direction allowing 100% loading capacity for taxis with immediate effect.
“We further urge members of the public and taxi operators to take preventative measures to mitigate against the spread of the virus. Government will undertake a programme to assist with the distribution of the masks. We also urge operators to continue to sanitise the taxi surfaces and to provide hand sanitizers to the public,” he added.