‘The economy is falling apart, we have no more money to give’: Mbalula on taxi strike

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has warned the country’s taxi industry that the government has no more money left to give, noting that a planned taxi shutdown on Monday (22 June), is counter-productive.

“Resorting to shutting down services as an expression of disagreement with the quantum of the amount the government is offering the industry as relief support, does nothing for the industry.

“A service shutdown will not only negatively affect the working class,” Mbalula said on Sunday afternoon.

The minister said that his department ‘noted with concern’ the announcement by the Gauteng Provincial arm of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) of a shutdown on Monday, as a result of their objection to the Taxi Relief Support announced on Friday.

“We find this action rather unfortunate and counter-productive. A service shutdown will not only negatively affect the working class, but will worsen the devastation of the industry,” Mbalula said.

“The economy is falling apart, it is falling apart,” the minister, said. “The reality is that there is no more money available beyond what the government has offered.”

The department noted that taxi industry is in the process of recovery from the combined impact of limited operating hours and reduced loading capacity as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mbalula said that the decision, announced on Friday, to avail R1.135 billion to the taxi industry as relief support was not an easy one.

“We literally had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to reach this amount, because we believe the taxi industry is deserving of support as the largest mover of our people.

“We must equally appreciate that government has limited resources, which must equally benefit all other sectors,” he said.

Increasing the amount available is simply not an option, the minister stressed.

Among concerns are how the money will be disbursed, while drivers are also calling for 100% capacity loads to be re-installed.

On Friday, Mbalula announced that SA Taxi Finance will put a moratorium in place on vehicle repossessions and also extend their initial one-month repayment holiday by a further two-months.

The minister said that while plans to host a National Taxi Indaba were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government remains committed to placing on the table a long-term taxi industry empowerment model, for discussion with all stakeholders.

This model will outline the tangible economic support government intends to provide to the industry, and the critical trade-offs that have to be made both by government and industry, to ensure its successful implementation, he said.

Mbalula said that there is no basis for any kind of shutdown, “and we appeal to the leadership of the taxi industry to discourage any such actions and give space to ongoing discussions”.

“Our collective effort and focus must be on directing resources towards the long-term sustainability of the industry.

“We reiterate our commitment to introducing subsidy as part of the long-term empowerment model of the taxi industry,” the minister said.

Read: Government to give South African taxis R1 billion in assistance

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‘The economy is falling apart, we have no more money to give’: Mbalula on taxi strike