By NASI HAKO
As in Gauteng thousands of commuters were left stranded yesterday and the threat of continuing strikes and fare increases brewed across the country, Makhanda’s taxi industry took a decision to delay any action until further notice.
“We aren’t planning to strike or increase taxi fares – not yet,”* said Wongezile Sixaba, who is the Head of Drivers for the Uncedo Taxi Association.
Due to the limitations placed on the taxi industry amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, taxi workers are struggling to make a significant income and are still holding out hope that the government will keep their promise of payments for all taxi workers.
“What happened here is that the first payment for either March or April was made. After that, people didn’t show up on the list and they were trying to sort out that list. There hasn’t been another payment since – only a few people got paid in April,” said Qaqambile Dikana, who is the Administrative Officer for the Grahamstown Taxi Association.
Frustrated by the payment backlog, members of the taxi associations met about the reasons behind this.
Despite these and many other grievances, the taxi workers of Makhanda have decided to remain patient.
“Some of us understand that the government didn’t create Covid-19. It’s a disaster for everyone,”* said Sixaba. “What we are saying is that we must wait until we hear from the paymaster again and he will brief us on the way forward.”*
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula last Friday appealed to the leadership of the taxi industry not to embark on a shutdown.
The Gauteng Provincial arm of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) shut down their services yesterday in response to the Taxi Relief Support announced by the government.
“The decision to avail R1.135 billion to the taxi industry as relief support was not an easy one. We literally had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to reach this amount, because we believe the taxi industry is deserving of support as the largest mover of our people,” Mbalula said.
The Minister said none of the relief packages offered by government equate to compensation for losses, but rather limited support to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have further committed to the industry that the Tuesday meeting will also provide feedback on their proposal for a 100% loading capacity,” the Minister said.
The Department of Transport has committed to a future funding model that will ensure the taxi industry is subsidised.
“This is part of the long-term commitment government is making to the industry, which must be underpinned by an accelerated process to formalise this industry,” the Minister said.
On Friday, the department announced that the SA Taxi Finance will put a moratorium in place on vehicle repossessions and also extend their initial one-month repayment holiday by a further two-months.
“This is part of the broader interventions we have made in support of the industry, which include providing personal protective equipment (PPE)…,” the Minister said.
* Additional reporting by SAnews.gov.za