The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) has made a U-turn on its plans to stage a shutdown in Gauteng on June 22 to demonstrate its opposition to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations that are limiting taxi operators’ ability to operate and make ends meet.
Its members met on Wednesday morning to discuss the plans, but the press conference to announce the shutdown was cancelled following a discussion between Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch.
Speaking to Moneyweb, Santaco spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said that since the onset of the lockdown the taxi industry has been operating at a loss.
“At 70% [passenger capacity] you are not making a profit. These taxi operators were losing money to the point that if we had not moved to 70% capacity, they would have had to stop operating completely.”
During the first phase of the national lockdown taxi operators could only operate at 50% passenger capacity, which according to Molelekwa resulted in only 10% of the total fleet of taxis working.
“This meant that over 220 000 taxis across the country were parked at home … they could only [make] one trip a day,” he said, adding that before lockdown, taxi operators could make five or six trips a day.
The Alexandra Taxi Association responding by saying that its members would increase their fares by 172%.
However, Santaco deemed it “unrealistic” to expect already cash-strapped passengers to afford such an increase.
“Though you [government] have increased the operating hours, taxis are still operating at [only] 70% capacity. The taxis need to be serviced and banks also want their money … as relief was only provided for three months. All of these decisions led to the 172% taxi fare increase,” said Molelekwa.
“[But] we are saying as Santaco that the increase was never practical, as much as the taxi industry is hardest hit. There are equally hard-hit people by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
A fare increase has however not been ruled out completely.
“The economy was already in a dire state before the Covid-19-induced lockdown and this had a ripple effect on a number of industries,” said Molelekwa, adding that the operational costs associated with running a taxi – petrol, rank fees, maintenance, vehicle instalments and insurance, as well as driver and taxi owner salaries – have also increased.
Users of the Gautrain will however see no increase in fares until the lockdown has been lifted.
“Due to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations and the current economic situation in South Africa, Gautrain [has] announced that its fares will not be increased in June this year, as would normally have been the case,” said Barbara Jensen, Gautrain Management Agency senior executive manager: communication and marketing.
She stressed that this does not mean that the train operator hasn’t been adversely affected by the lockdown.
“We have been impacted quite severely as we were non-operational the first five weeks of Level 5 lockdown, and since reopening on May 4 we are slowly picking up ridership, but it is nowhere near where it had been prior to Covid-19,” she said.
Uber has also announced that it will not be increasing its prices for now.