Fill up: Commuters at Baragwanath taxi rank were taxis are back to full capacity in, Soweto. Picture: Sowetan/Antonio Muchave
Fill up: Commuters at Baragwanath taxi rank were taxis are back to full capacity in, Soweto. Picture: Sowetan/Antonio Muchave

On Sunday, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) flipped the bird at the government, metro police officers and any of its customers who might prefer to not ride in minibus taxis stuffed to the gills, and not just in this time of Covid.

Santaco said its members’ taxis would no longer operate at 70% capacity but would instead travel full to make up for losses suffered during the lockdown.

So forget everything the world has learnt in these brutal months about how Covid-19 is transmitted.

Forget that at last count, SA had more than 144,000 cases and 2,500 deaths.

Forget that there is no vaccine and no cure.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula called the taxi industry the backbone of the nation — which, thanks to the insanity of apartheid and social development "planning" and a catastrophic state-run public transport system, it is.

No one can doubt the taxi industry’s moxie. Look at the middle finger it gave the Nats in the 1980s as that government failed to keep up with a surge of unplanned urbanisation as the people of the land voted against the lunacy of the homelands system with the one ballot they had: their feet.

It is a true home-grown business, free of any taint of the old SA.

But if it was unruly in the early days, the genie is properly out of the bottle now.

Twenty thousand owners with 150,000 taxis; R16.5bn in annual turnover; 200,000 drivers (which, by the way, is the size of a professional standing army).

The government’s long-standing failure, despite years of carnage, lawlessness and gunfire, to regulate the taxi business, has come home to roost. Taxi bosses know that when the taxis stop, the economy stops with them.

Now that’s realpolitik.

Of course, what the government needs to do is go after the taxi bosses instead of sending cops to harass the drivers. Oh, look! A unicorn!

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