During the week of 20 April 2020, Public Transport and Road Infrastructure MEC Mr. Mamabolo visited the Emfuleni Local Municipality to inspect the local taxi ranks. This followed the pronouncements of Minister Fikile Mbalula on the public safety measures to be taken while “essential service” workers will be commuting during COVID-19 Lockdown.
The MEC Mamabolo went to some of the taxi ranks of Emfuleni with the roll out of sanitisation of all taxis and the ranks; issuing hand gloves and masks. Karibu! spoke to one taxi driver, Mr. Makhetha, who drives on one of the crucial routes from Sasolburg to Sebokeng. “This may seem to be one of the less busy routes, and even more so with less people commuting due to the lockdown. But we carry essential workers from big companies like Sasol, hospitals and retail shops moving across the provincial trans-boundaries”, said Mr. Makhetha. “We have this permit but I don’t know what it means, only that in case the police stop me, I have to produce it”, he added showing his lockdown permit signed and stamped by the Vaal Interprovincial Taxi Association.
Most taxi drivers feel the impact of the lockdown restrictions, as a number of people commuting has fallen. For some time there was a strict window with driving time only in certain hours. Permission for public transport to be on the road was only between 06:00 to 09:00 in the mornings and 16:00 to 20:00 in the afternoon to early evening hours.
Another driver, Sabatha, who lives in Zone 10 in Sebokeng, spoke to Karibu!. “Yes, even though petrol prices have gone down, but we still don’t make money because we don’t get to drive the normal hours we are used to. As yet we are not even supposed to drive with our normal full load because the rules of social distancing say we can only fill up our vehicles up to 70% full”. He said he is not satisfied with the lockdown rules.
“We suffer a lot, like many of the people who are sitting at home without their normal daily income. We have to buy sanitisers because they run out quickly, and the masks are disposed daily, together with the gloves. Now that there is this COVID-19, sometimes we include these things in our weekly or monthly budgets, depending on what how much we have for spending”, he said, explaining his frustrations.
“The local municipality had an event on 5 May 2020 where the MEC came and provided [Personal Protective Equipment] to most of us, but others who were not there at the time didn’t get it.,” he said. The officials’ programme included the spraying of the taxis and the taxi ranks at Bophelong, Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging and Sebokeng Plaza.
Thapelo, who transports school learners, said “things were better before COVID-19 and this lockdown. Since there is no income, things are bad”. The lockdown has had a negative effect in the taxi industry, and taxi drivers like Thapelo are feeling the harshest consequences. “I have not met any of Emfuleni municipality officials [who explained properly], and there is no communication on how we will be assisted or whether with the solidarity fund will be any help,” he said.
This article was submitted on 12 May 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.