Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says it is unfortunate and regrettable that taxi operators have decided to violate Covid-19 lockdown regulations, after they announced that they will fill their taxis to 100% capacity and up inter-provincial travelling as of Monday.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) made the announcement on Sunday afternoon during separate virtual briefings, saying government was not taking the industry seriously and that they had decided to take the "the bull by its horns".
The organisations said Mbalula had cancelled engagements with them again and again.
In a statement on Sunday evening, Mbalula said he had in fact engaged with the industry leaders last week and had committed to giving them an update, but had to reschedule due to "unforeseen circumstances".
"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.
The operators had presented four issues to Mbalula - the relief fund, 100% loading capacity, long-distance operations, and taxi fares.
They said they could no longer wait for the minister and were not happy that airlines were allowed to fill planes and travel inter-provincially, while they were not.
Mbalula said the government had a responsibility to ensure that measures were in place to curb the spread of the virus.
"It is on that basis that a decision to allow uncontrolled inter-provincial travel and 100% loading capacity on taxis has to be subjected to the collective decision-making," he said.
The organisations also reiterated their rejection of the R1.1 billion relief fund announced by Mbalula a week ago.
Mbalula appealed to the taxi operators to reconsider their decision, which would place drivers and passengers on the wrong side of the law.
"While we have expressed support for a review of loading capacity to 100%, until the current directions have been revised, the legal loading capacity is 70% and enforceable by law enforcement authorities.
"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," he said.