Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that his hands are tied when it comes to policies and lockdown rules around taxis in South Africa, and he cannot unilaterally decide on how to change them.
This comes after the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) announced that it has taken a decision to revert to 100% loading capacity in its taxis in violation of the country’s lockdown regulations.
In a media briefing on Monday (29 June), Mbalula said that despite being the minister of Transport, he cannot unilaterally decide to relax rules or offer financial support to the taxi industry without permission from the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
While the government was still engaging with the taxi industry, Mbalula said that Santaco has now forced its hand.
“You are (pointing) a gun at the government, when the government has always been an ally and is ready to review the regulations even at level 3,” he said.
He added that government was not looking to be adversarial with the industry, and that conflict was unnecessary.
“I don’t know who said that we are fighting with the taxi industry. Do I want law enforcement to clamp down on the tax industry? No. Can the taxi industry promote anarchy and bring the country to a standstill? Yes it can.”
Mbalula added that government was ready to resolve issues that the taxi industry may have. “(This fighting is) over something we can resolve. It is absolutely unnecessary.”
WATCH LIVE: AVIATION AND TAXI INDUSTRY PRESSER
It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that the taxi industry leadership has elected to violate the law, rather than await a decision on the matters they have tabled. pic.twitter.com/hIm91XSgpM
— Minister of Transport |Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile) June 29, 2020
On Sunday, Santaco President Philip Taaibosch announced that taxis will operate at full capacity, while those travelling along long-distance routes will be allowed to continue travelling without a permit.
Taaibosch said if any taxis were stopped by law enforcement and impounded, taxi operations across the country would grind to a halt until the impounded taxi was released.
The group has also rejected the conditions attached to the R1 billion relief fund for the industry, which requires beneficiaries be registered as a business.
Mbalula, meanwhile, has asked with the taxi bodies to not break the law and to consider the impact of their course of action on the spread of the virus.