A taxi rank in Johannesburg a day after Santaco president Philip Taaibosch introduced prevention measures for the industry. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
A taxi rank in Johannesburg a day after Santaco president Philip Taaibosch introduced prevention measures for the industry. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), SA’s largest taxi organisation, has launched a R3.5bn fund to cushion the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry, which transports 16.5-million passengers a day.

Thabiso Molelekwa, Santaco’s national spokesperson, told Business Day on Monday that it has appointed auditing company SkX and two law firms, Ncube and De Klerk Mandelstam, to manage the SA Taxi Industry Coronavirus Relief Fund.

“We want the relief fund to have a well-structured legal standing to ensure that each rand raised is for the benefit of all beneficiaries [such as] taxi drivers, queue marshals, rank managers, and taxi owners.”

The taxi organisation has requested business communities, the government and car manufacturers, among others, to come on board and make contributions to the fund.

It aims to help 100,000 queue marshals; 150,000 taxi drivers; and the taxi associations’ support staff who work in their offices, “whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by this virus”.

“The fund is a just a form of relief to help them put bread on the table so that their families can eat,” said Molelekwa. “The fund is not meant to help the industry pay off its obligations.”

Molelekwa stressed that the industry has been badly affected by the 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month, aimed at limiting Covid-19 in SA. There are more than 1,700 confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which about 95 have recovered, and 13 deaths so far in SA.

On Wednesday last week, transport minister Fikile Mbalula relaxed Covid-19 regulations in the public-transport sector during the lockdown, allowing minibus taxis to carry full passenger loads if passengers wear masks.

However, he backtracked on Thursday morning, saying transport vehicles must reduce the number of maximum passengers to 70% of the licensed capacity. Mbalula also announced changes to operating times, with minibus taxis now permitted to operate from 5am until 10am (previously 9am), and from 4pm to 9pm (previously 8pm). 

Molelekwa said some minibus taxi businesses will collapse in the next six to 10 months because “making a recovery from the huge losses incurred during the lockdown period will be an impossible task to achieve”.

Santaco president Philip Taaibosch said: “In our quest to maintain social-distancing and save lives, we recognise that our members are losing income and their livelihood is severely compromised. We have taken this proactive step to establish a fund that will cushion the blow to our members.”

Taaibosch called on all stakeholders to the taxi industry such as food retailers, taxi dealerships, tyres and parts manufacturers, banks, and other industry players to “come together with the taxi industry and contribute to the fund”.

“This is crucial in ensuring essential service [workers] are taken to work … to keep the economy of the country going.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za