While taxi owners are struggling to make their vehicle instalments, private vehicle owners are muscling in on a gap in the market created by Covid-19 regualation.
LOCAL taxi association members, many of whom are facing mounting debts and are unable to honour their vehicle instalments, have pointed fingers at private vehicle owners, who they accuse of muscling in on a gap in the market created by Covid-19 regulations.
Taxi association members said on Thursday that private vehicles were loading passengers at various points in town and ferrying them home after 7pm, when taxis are forced to stop operating.
According to taxi operators, private individuals saw the gap in the market and jumped at the opportunity to make money, while appeals by the legal taxi industry, whose businesses are suffering, have gone unheeded.
Earlier this week, the government gazetted new regulations for vehicle owners and public transport during the latest phase of the national lockdown. The regulations, released on Monday, specified that no vehicles – either private or public transport – were only allowed on the roads between 5am to 8pm, with a grace period of an hour, “to complete a journey”, to 9pm.
But on Wednesday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula gazetted a change to that regulation. Now, public transport – which includes minibus taxis – can operate from 5am to 7pm only, with no mention of a grace period. Instead “the driver must ensure that the drop off is completed by 7pm.”
Public transport will only be allowed outside of these hours if it is a chartered service for Level 4 workers that has been arranged by an employer. The transport owners will have to present documentation to confirm this.
South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) members in Kimberley said on Thursday that commuters were being loaded into private vehicles right under their noses.
“During the Level 5 lockdown, taxis were only allowed to operate for a few hours in the morning and again in the afternoon from 4pm. While we were forced to wait until 4pm to start operating, private cars, which we can identify, were transporting people to and from Galeshewe,” one operator said. “As a result, we lost a lot of income and now we are receiving final demand letters from our creditors.
“With taxis now not being allowed to transport commuters after 7pm, this situation will continue and private operators will benefit as some staff only knock off from work late.”
Others pointed out that taxi operators are also subjected to regulations that require them to sanitise their vehicles regularly and that all commuters wear masks, while the owners of private vehicles were not monitored.
“By leaving open gaps like these after making the rules, the government stands to get a slap in the face when the number of positive cases increases,” one taxi operator said.
“It is very disappointing to see those who are trying to make an honest living suffering because of others who are flouting the regulations.”
The taxi industry further called for speedy updates on the promised relief funds by the government over the lockdown period.
One operator said he had already received his first notice for payment but was unable to honour his April instalment of R15 000 as he had no income.
“We really hope to benefit from the relief fund or get updates as soon as possible before we get blacklisted by our creditors.”