Mbalula: Banks to provide taxi operators with further payment holiday

Members of the Banking Association of South Africa will provide further Covid-19 payment holiday relief to the taxi industry.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, addressing the media on amended regulations and further plans to combat the spread of Covid-19 on Thursday, said government has been in engagement with the banking sector to assist the taxi industry which has been impacted by the Covid-19-induced lockdown measures.

Over the last few weeks we have been engaging in intense discussions with the taxi industry on the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the continuous losses the industry continues to incur,” said Mbalula.

He added that in the past government has engaged with the taxi industry “on good leadership in good faith”.

Areas of agreement, and difference

“We found each other on many areas but there are areas where we differed. However, the door remains opened for further engagements on issues where we are not in agreement.”

Mbalula said he has always found the engagement between government and the taxi industry to be “cordial” and not characterised by the high flare of emotion.

“Our tackling of Covid-19 is not a one-man show, it needs all of us on board.

“We have had to put all our emotions aside and go deeper and understand what [challenges] face the taxi industry and how we can mitigate the situation and make sure we keep the balance of livelihoods and at the same time ensure that we preserve human lives.”

Mbalula said this is why the government took it upon itself to alleviate the challenges faced by the sector and engage with the banking sector to offer further relief measures.

He said the banking sector has responded positively to the plea.

“We are happy to indicate that banks have been responsive to our proposals, we have not been a trade union to the taxi industry.”

Mbalula said individual banks have their own procedures and measures in place and will make announcements in this regard. “Some banks have offered repayment holidays and redetermination of the terms of agreement with individual borrowers. The banks will also in due course communicate their decisions to the borrowers and public on the Covid-19-related relief measures.”

Victory welcomed

Santaco (South African National Taxi Council) spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa said the victory announced by the transport minister is “very much” welcomed.

Molelekwa says that following the planned shutdown in mid-June, Mbalula asked to engage with taxi industry leaders.

Read: Taxi fares won’t increase 172%

“On a matter of principle this relief is not enough, but we had to find ways of moving forward, and discussions on the relief measures [to be announced] are still be undertaken,” said Molelekwa.

He added that because the bank’s relief measures were only for April, May and June they had to ask the minister of transport to assist in negotiations with the banks for a further three months.

“He has taken it upon himself to find interventions to relieve the industry and he took it upon himself to negotiate with the banks.

“Because he [Mbalula] says that there is good news, we take it that we have good news,” said Molelekwa.

He added that moving forward from the three months, which they anticipate the banks will offer them, they will have to find other measures for another three months to cushion the blow caused by the pandemic.

He said Santaco has also discussed providing taxi owners with “innovative” financial relief with Mbalula.

Mbalula further explained that the government intends to formalise the industry as it has been taking “double hits” more than any other industry because it is unregulated.

“We do have plans focused on fully regulating the taxi industry and the formalisation of the taxi industry,” he said.

By Neil Hall
For The Daily Mirror

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