Covid-19: Informal taxi operators in Springs targeted for non-compliance
One driver says his weekly salary dropped from R500 to R150
Informal taxi owners in Springs say they are being harassed by metro police during the lockdown. For the last two weeks, many taxis – commonly known as isigqebhezana – have been impounded for carrying more passengers than is allowed by the regulations. Some drivers also accuse authorities of hitting and manhandling them.
Isigqebhezana taxis are used by many residents in Kwathema township. Owners say they were told to halt their operations during lockdown but were shocked to see minibus taxis continue to operate.
John Mkhabele, an Isigqebhezana driver, said the money he earned driving the taxi before lockdown was not enough to support his family. He has had to approach some of his customers during the lockdown to help him buy bread. His employer has cut his weekly salary from R500 to R150.
The car he drives was impounded last Saturday. He was picking up five passengers at the local Pick ‘n Pay when metro police stopped him. He says they demanded that he give each passenger their R8 fare back before confiscating his vehicle. The car was released later that night.
“l know that there is Covid-19 but if we stop carrying passengers, how will we buy food? I know that five passengers are too many, but carrying only two is a punishment,” he said.
Mkhabele said he has returned to work and was “being careful”.
Kelvin Phila said his car was impounded last Monday and returned on Tuesday. He was carrying four passengers. “I know that we are supposed to do our best to ensure that our customers stay safe from contracting the virus, but the urge to make money is more tempting,” he said.
Phila said he tried to stay at home during the first week of lockdown, but when members of his family started complaining that there was no more food in the house he decided to start operating his taxi.
Other taxi operators said metro police forced some of them to do push ups last week, before warning them that should they continue operating they would be arrested.
Bheki Mthetwam a isigqebhezana taxi owner, said, “We are not recognised by the government yet we are members of Taxi Associations and pay a monthly fee. Because things are so bad at the moment, I had to stop my driver from working without pay during lockdown”.
But it’s not only taxi owners and drivers feeling the pinch. Taxi marshals who normally earn R2 for every passenger they load on the taxi, also say they are struggling to make ends meet.
According to the Kwathema metro police office, isigqebhezana taxi owners carrying more than two passengers were not complying with the Disaster Act . Some were even found carrying up to five people at a time. This was why the metro police in the area were targeting these operators, the statement said.
The station reported that most of the isigqebhezana operators did not even meet the basic requirements for their small taxis to operate.
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