Some taxi associations in Makapanstad, in Moretele in North West, have threatened to penalize any driver who defies the nationwide lockdown regulations.
They made the statement after receiving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) from the provincial Transport Management department on Wednesday.
The department has been crisscrossing the North West, handing-out PPE’s at different taxi ranks, as one of the measures to curb the spread of the corona-virus.
The new regulations only allow minibus taxis to carry 70% of their vehicles’ capacity.
This means a minibus taxi licensed to carry 10 passengers is now allowed to carry seven, those licensed to carry 15 are now carrying 10, while the 22 seaters are permitted to carry 15 passengers.
They are allowed to ferry essential service workers between five o’clock and 10 o’clock in the morning, and four o’clock in the afternoon to eight o’clock in the evening.
They can only load their maximum 100% if all the passengers are wearing either surgical or N95 respiratory masks.
The minibus taxis must also sanitize their vehicles before carrying passengers, with a sanitizer that has an alcohol content of no less than 60%, according to the new regulations.
Makapanstad United Taxi Association (MAUTA) Disciplinary Committee member Lucas Kgope says taxi drivers who do not follow or violate lockdown regulations will be slapped with a 30-day suspension without pay.
Kgope says, “As far the situation is like this, we as taxi operators are trying by all means to work hand in glove with our government, by 10 o’clock we stop operating then we wait till 4 o’clock as from 5 o’clock we start our operation. Even now our drivers are now complying, everything is going well, we hope and trust that through our help this virus will slow down. The drivers who don’t complying we penalize them we charged them 31days at home, we don’t have any optional charge we don’t fine them.”
The association’s Chairperson, Kgabo Moloto says they are running short of PPE’s, which puts them and their passengers at risk of contracting the corona-virus.
Moloto says he welcomes the provincial government’s handing out of these protective gears at their rank.
‘The masks are finished’
A taxi driver, Floyd Mphiwe, says it was difficult for them to work without gloves, masks, and sanitisers.
Mphiwe says, “We have a problem that each and every time we’re carrying customers from here to Hammanskraal we’ve got a problem of sanitisers. If government can maybe give us at least 50 masks or sanitisers and will maybe last for a day. This is harmful because of when I’m carrying the customers from inside the taxi, I am afraid of COVID-19 as the mask are finished.”
The Head of Department for the North West Department of Transport Management, Botlhale Mofokeng says it is the taxi associations responsibility to protect commuters against COVID-19.
Mofokeng says, “We have distributed disinfectants, sanitisers, gloves and masks to the operators. This is meant to protect them as there are the frontline officials in terms of the taxi industry. A major challenge that we have experienced was that there was this rumour that was flying about, that there is a specific association that is preferred above the other, I want to demystify that, when we distribute, we are not distributing to a specific association. as government as a department we are distributing to operators.”