Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Wednesday that taxis could carry their full loads during the national lockdown, provided that all passengers wore masks.
Mbalula was addressing taxi operators and commuters at the MTN Taxi Rank in Johannesburg after he held discussions with the National Taxi Alliance and Santaco Taxi Association, in an effort to avert a possible strike by the industry.
Taxis will operate between 05:00 and 10:00, in a move to accommodate social grant recipients, and again between 16:00 and 21:00.
Government will roll out masks and sanitisers from Thursday and nobody will be allowed to enter the taxi without being sanitised and without a mask.
Mbalula said after engagements with the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma they have prescribed the regulations in relation to public transport.
A minibus licensed to carry ten passengers will be allowed to carry a maximum of 7 passengers, while a minibus licensed to carry 15 passengers is limited to a maximum of 10 passengers.
A midi-bus, which is permitted to carry a maximum of 22 passengers, will be limited to carry 15 passengers.
Mbalula also said a vehicle licensed to carry a maximum of four passengers will be limited to carrying 50% of its permissible passenger carrying capacity.
“Alternatively, during the lockdown period, all minibus and midi-bus taxi vehicles are permitted to load their maximum 100% passenger loading capacity as provided for in their operating licences, provided that all passengers are wearing masks,” said Mbalula.
He said ideally taxis should not be operating but said government understood that essential workers needed transport to get to work.
He commended the taxi industry for working with government, despite the economic challenges.
He warned taxis from operating outside the allotted times.
He also said people wanting to buy food and other necessities should go to shops in their areas.
He also warned against disobeying law enforcement authorities.
“We are all going to die if we don’t follow the rules. This is not apartheid laws, but the government is trying to protect you,” he said.
Mbalula said he was aware that the regulations had economic consequences.
“We are aware that if you don’t operate you don’t make money, but this is not the time to fight. This is a time to sit down and talk. We can see how the people are dying in other countries. Our government is trying by all means to make sure that all people are taken care of. If you are not feeling well, seek help,” he said.
It was no the time for politicking, he said.
“We are working on making sure that the taxi industry will also get funding in these difficult times. Our doors are open, there is no need to organise protest actions. We must not fight. Those who are not willing to cooperate must be arrested,” he said.