Revised directions regarding public transport during lockdown
The arrival of the Covid-19 virus has plunged the country in a situation that requires agility and decisiveness in our efforts and interventions to curb the spread of the virus.
Public transport remains one of our biggest risk areas in the spread of the virus. We must therefore do everything in our power to protect both the citizens who rely on public transport and those who operate the system from exposure and possible infection.
We indicated from the start that we are on a steep learning curve and would regularly review the measures we have introduced to achieve the desired outcomes.
Since the lockdown came into effect at midnight of 26 March 2020, we have assessed those measures and consulted with the taxi industry.
That consultation process included relevant structures in government as well as individual ministers and as a result we have revised a number of our measures relating to public transport.
In consulting with the taxi industry, I have engaged the leadership of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA). I must commend the taxi industry for their efforts and commitment to playing their part in enabling mobility of the poor and vulnerable in these trying times. Despite the economic challenges facing the industry, we were able to reach an agreement that guarantees continuous availability of public transport during the lockdown period.
We must all realise that the measures we introduce to curb the spread of this virus are about preserving human life and not about our individual narrow self-serving interests.
Every one of us must appreciate this and play their part in eradicating the pandemic.
During our engagements the taxi industry placed on the table critical issues, some of which we have addressed, while others are still receiving attention.
When the lockdown was declared, we were busy finalising our plans for hosting the National Taxi Indaba, which will be held later in the year and address a number of critical economic issues confronting the industry.
Among the key issues to be considered by the Indaba is a sustainable economic empowerment model for the taxi industry. This will include a public transport funding model, which must include a possible subsidy regime, in which the taxi industry is a full participant.
Subsequent to these engagements and consultations, we have taken steps to amend directions relating to public transport. Our engagements with our counterparts in government are ongoing to ensure alignment of our directions with the regulations published by the Minister of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).
We therefore recommend that during the lockdown period, the following public transport vehicles must reduce the number of maximum passengers to 70% of the licensed capacity, with no masks according to the following:
• A minibus licensed to carry 10 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 7 passengers.
• A minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers, is limited to carry the maximum of 10 passengers.
• A midi-bus permitted to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, is limited to carry a maximum of 15 passengers
• A vehicle licensed to carry a maximum of 4 passengers is limited to carrying 50% of its permissible passenger carrying capacity.
Alternatively, all minibus and midi-bus taxi vehicles are permitted to load their maximum passenger loading capacity as provided for in their operating licenses, on condition that all passengers wear masks.
The masks must be either surgical masks or N95 respiratory masks.
We urge public transport operators to adhere to the directions on sanitising vehicles and put measures in place to enforce social distancing at all times.
Once the lockdown period is something of the past, we will give priority to the National Taxi Indaba, which will tackle pressing and strategic issues facing the taxi industry.
This industry continues to operate on the fringes of the formal economy despite the fact that they have more than 60% market share of all public transport modes. We are under no illusion that the conflict and violence that continues to define this industry are a consequence of an economic challenge that we need to jointly address as a matter of urgency.
The Taxi Indaba will seek to find consensus on a sustainable economic empowerment model. In addition, we will review the effectiveness of current interventions, including the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme and the rollout of the Integrated Public Transport Networks.
We will likewise pay particular attention to leadership issues and achieving sustainable unity to ensure that taxi violence stops. The Indaba will also focus on regulation and the effective enforcement of that regulation by government, while the industry must commit to the rule of law.
We have no doubt that the Taxi Indaba will produce a blueprint of an industry that is at peace with itself, able to sustain itself beyond government incentives and subject to the rule of law.
Issued by: Fikile Mbalula / Minister of Transport
Subeditor: Mariana Balt
Editor: Anchen Coetzee