Passengers are seen at a taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Passengers are seen at a taxi rank in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Sunday night was hardly unexpected. With Covid-19 cases ramping up by about 12,000 a day and the number of infections edging towards 300,000, it was a no-brainer that some kind of containment measures would be put in place.

But imagine our surprise when, while informing us of increased restrictions and the importance of social distancing, Ramaphosa told us deadpan that taxis will now operate at 100% capacity for trips under 200km.

To be clear: while the government is increasing restrictions elsewhere in the economy and reintroducing a curfew, it is relaxing them in the one place where viral spread is extremely likely. Not to worry, we’re told — taxis will apparently crank open their windows by 5cm.

And, we’re told, authorities will now actually enforce the already mandatory order to wear masks in public places. Presumably this will fall to the same police force that is incapable of enforcing drunk-driving legislation.

The taxi farce is sadly indicative of so much that’s wrong with our flailing state — the government’s inability to stand up to powerful lobby groups; the ineptitude of policing; the failure to properly formalise the taxi industry within the country’s public transport sector.

And it’ll be the poorest members of society who will pay the biggest price for all of this.

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