Today, the 30th of September marks the cut-off date for the Plettenberg Bay taxi industry to receive their Covid 19 relief fund but there is still no word from authorities whether they will happen.
This whole drama, confusion and tension around Covid 19 relief fund within the taxi industry started lasted last month when some Plettenberg Bay taxi associations blocked N2 and demanded that the Western Cape MEC of transport, Dylin Mitchell to come and address them.
The aggrieved taxi drivers wanted MEC Dylin Mitchell to explain why the Covid 19 relief grant will be paid to taxi owners only. The taxi drivers believe that they too should get government financial support because they are also essential workers who have lost income during the hard lockdown and have put their lives at risk when economic activities were permitted on levels 4,3 and 2.
Thembinkosi Thinta is one of the taxi drivers who believe he deserves government financial support. According to Thinta, all taxi drivers are among the lowest earners in the transport industry and the government should compensate them for their 2020 and 2021 income loss when taxis were only allowed to onboard 10 maximum of 10 passengers
”It is unfair that only licensed taxi operators will get to benefit. I am a taxi driver. I am the one who is risking my life everyday to work, most of the owners we operate for do not even drive taxis and yet we are not going to benefit anything.”
“We wake up at 5:00 am everyday to transport people and had home at 6 pm in the evening. Those are not even normally working hours but we endure because jobs are scary in South Africa and we do what we have to do to survive and provide for our families. We get paid by commission now tell us how much we are getting because people lost jobs and some do not work everyday. We get less done 500 a week.” Continued Thinta.
Taxi drivers from Bitou also complained of their taxes being reported and urged the Transportation Department to release the funds as they were their only hope to saving their Business.
According to the Disaster 57 of 2002 The Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 intends to provide for: an integrated and coordinated disaster management policy that focuses on preventing or reducing the risk of disasters, mitigating the severity of disasters, emergency preparedness, rapid and effective response to disasters and post-disaster recovery;
In the disaster management act section 8(2) “ disaster means a progressive or sudden widespread or localised, natural or human-caused occurrence which causes or threatens to cause death, injury or disease.
Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula Issued a Government Gazzet, 21 March 2021 giving direction on taxi relief fund to mitigate impact of Covid 19 in the taxi industry.
In the Gazzet it is stated that the Department secured once-off ex trait is, relief funds to the tune of R 1.135 million to assist operators to mitigate the effect of Covid 19, the relief scheme is not intended to be comparable for loss of income.
Also stated that in other to qualify taxi operators must be in possession of an operating license or permit aid.
Have been operating for the income 180 days, the taxi operation must be formally registered as a business entity.
The taxi operation must ensure that within a period of two years the date of submission of the application that the employees of submission of an application that employees in his employment will be registered under the name of the company, established and registered with the unemployment insurance fund.
The taxi driver says this is a violation of their rights, as most taxi drivers do not have operating licenses and are not registered with the unemployment insurance fund. “ the government is discriminating against the taxi business because it is black-owned, they do not respect the work done by us and complicated this on purpose, how Are we expected to have all of these in such a short period of time” concluded Thinta
In terms of section 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 everyone has the right to freedom of association. In terms of section 23 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to fair labour practices, and every worker has the right to form and join a trade union. The right to freedom of association and the right of every worker to form and join a trade union is expressed in section 4 (1) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“the LRA”), which guarantees every employee the right to join a trade union.
Unfortunately for Taxi drivers who are not registered at labour, finding a representative or complaining at the Department of Labour is impossible.
This Covid 19 awareness article was produced with the support of Journalists for Human Rights.
By Siphokazi Mnyobe