South Africa: Taxis Operating At Full Capacity

Thousands of South African hospitality and wine industry workers took to the streets to protest against the banning of alcohol sales and restrictions on restaurant hours during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taxis in Durban defied lockdown regulations on Monday by loading to full capacity. Photo: Nokulunga Majola.

The national taxi council told taxi operators to fully load their vehicles.

Under lockdown regulations taxis are meant to only carry 70% capacity.

Commuters and drivers are split on whether to ignore the regulations.

The minister of transport met with the taxi council on Monday night.

Taxi operators in KwaZulu-Natal continued to defy lockdown regulations by loading their taxis to full capacity on Monday. This follows an announcement by South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) that all their taxis would carry to full capacity instead of 70% as stipulated to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

In a taxi carrying 15 passengers between Ntuzuma and the YMCA taxi rank in Central Durban, GroundUp found only five people wearing face masks.

Commuters were divided in their views. Some said they were concerned about their safety, others said government should leave the taxis alone.

Sabelo Mdletshe from Ntuzuma said in his experience many taxis had been carrying full loads since the country moved to level 3.

But Bonisiwe Mzolo, who has been travelling to Stanger almost every Monday, said it was the first time since the lockdown that her was taxi full. "I am concerned about my safety, but I have no choice. I have to take a taxi because I have to go to work ... I hope the government and the taxi industry resolve their issues before putting more people at risk of getting sick," she said.

Zolile Qwara, who was travelling to the Eastern Cape, said, "I am a bit scared because they are risking more people getting infected with the virus as there is no social distancing if taxis are carrying full loads."

A taxi driver, who did not want to be named , said, "The problem is that if we don't do what our bosses tell us to do, we would be in trouble. I don't think this is a good idea especially when more people are getting infected every day."

Another taxi driver, Philani Phakathi, who does the Durban - Gauteng run, said, "We are losing a lot of money with the 70% capacity. I understand why they [SANTACO] want us to carry a full load. In my taxi, I make sure that everyone is wearing masks and I also give them sanitizer after we have collected the payments just to be safe."

SANTACO KZN office manager Sfiso Shangase said on Monday the industry had incurred major losses. He said they will continue to ensure passenger safety by urging people to wear masks and use sanitizer.

"We are appealing to our passengers to be patient and work with us on this. We are engaging with the government and we are hoping that we will come to an understanding that will benefit everyone," said Shangase.

He said they will be posting stickers in their vehicles that say no entry without a mask.

KZN MEC for Transport Bheki Ntuli said it was unfortunate that the taxi industry had decided to defy the regulations and continue to break the law, but he would continue to engage with SANTACO.

"People must understand ... we are trying to protect the lives of the people. People that they are loading, they must be protected so that in the end they [taxis] must remain in business."

Ntuli said they had set up 30 roadblocks, but he did not yet have the statistics on how many arrests were made.

SANTACO has rejected transport minister Fikile Mbalula's R1.35 billion package to help the country's taxi industry. It said it wanted R20,000 per taxi in relief funding.

The minister met with SANTACO on Monday night.

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