Analysis

The President, His Son & The Taxi Industry

By Akuba Mokoena

ALMOST a month to the day, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) announced it would operate at 100% capacity in violation of the National Coronavirus Command Council’s (NCCC) regulation that taxis should operate at 70% as part of the measures to curb the spread of the pandemic. 

The Council also announced it would resume operating inter-provincially. They said the taxi industry had been hard-hit and they would not be able to service their vehicle instalments on 1 July, when the payment holiday period ends. They rejected the R1.1billion relief offered by government. 

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the disease may be airborne and transmitted through aerosols which can linger in the air over several metres. WHO had previously said this type of transmission could take place in hospitals but on 10 July acknowledged such transmission could take place in restaurants, bars and indoor locations. 

The WHO had always maintained that the virus is generally spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, which are heavy, and fall to the ground within a few feet. 

Despite this announcement by WHO, Santaco declared its defiance against the NCCC. A standoff ensued between Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and the Council but in the end the taxi industry continued with its defiance campaign without much hinderance. 

Mbalula on 15 July announced new stringent measures to safeguard the lives of passengers, he said. Taxis, buses, meter taxis would now be allowed to operate at 100% capacity provided they followed strict rules which we had always known; wearing of masks, sanitising the vehicle, observing social distancing and opening windows. Long distance travel was only allowed to operate at 70% loading capacity. 

On 27 July, Business Insider reported that an organisation founded by Andile Ramaphosa, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s son, was fitting Gauteng taxis with covid-19 technology which would ensure taxis met the new rules. The publication did not mention from where the funding of the project was sourced. 

It said the the R6million project, a collaboration between First National Bank (FNB) and Bridge Taxi Finance, would fit “ventilator spacers (which are fitted into windows), an airtight plastic barrier seal between driver and passengers and sanitiser stations next to the sliding doors are among the new features”.

The timing of these events is curious – all seemingly fitting together nicely. The taxi industry throws down the gauntlet at the NCCC, headed by daddy, who capitulates to the demands to increase capacity despite WHO warnings and the NCCC’s commitment to saving life at all costs – even to the destruction of the economy. Enters son with a R6m bonanza and well….help NCCC with its commitment to save lives at all cost. 

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