LOCKDOWN: Transport of essential services workers
Media release by Bonginkosi Madikizela Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works
Since the Covid-19 lockdown commenced last week, we have received numerous reports of essential services workers, including healthcare and retail staff, being stranded and unable to get to work. Disturbingly, we have also received reports of minibus taxi operators refusing to allow their usual passengers to use alternative transport and, in some cases, violently attacking alternative means of transport for essential services workers. This is unacceptable and is happening despite our commitment to work together to address the challenges of the lockdown.
Many of the essential services workers that have been left stranded would ordinarily have used minibus taxis. Fewer minibus taxis are operating than normal, with some operators being unwilling to do so due to the new restrictions placed on their operating capacity by the public transport lockdown regulations. Minibus taxis are now only permitted to carry 8 people, rather than the usual 16 (i.e. 50% capacity). During the lockdown, all public transport operators are restricted to two daily operating slots: from 05:00 (5 am) to 09:00 (9 am), and from 16:00 (4 pm) to 20:00 (8 pm).
It goes without saying that it is critically important for essential services workers to be able to get to work at the time they are needed. This is especially important in the healthcare sector, who are at the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19.
At this difficult time, we implore the minibus taxi industry to continue transporting essential workers, where possible, and to stop intimidating other transport providers or passengers looking for alternative means of getting to work. We understand and are sympathetic to the challenges that the capacity restrictions impose on the industry, and would welcome immediate dialogue to develop a way forward.
At the same time, my Department has requested that Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) increase its services to provide an immediate alternative for those left stranded. We have also urgently requested that hospitals and other essential services provide us with the details of their stranded employees so that we can develop an appropriate response, working with GABS and the minibus taxi industry.
We all need to pull together at this difficult time to ensure that our essential services workers can get to where they need to go. This is critical for the broader fight against Covid-19.
To this end, we urge all essential service employers who are experiencing problems to contact the Department on HOD.TransportPublicWorks@westerncape.gov.za, stating the nature of their transport challenge. Please provide specific details, including number of people that need to be transported, from where, to where, at what time.
It has always been my intention to work with the minibus taxi industry to find the best responses to the challenges to the Covid-19 pandemic and the operating challenges that have arisen during the lockdown. However, the events of the last few days has shown this is not possible. The Department of Transport and Public Works is actively engaging to find solutions to the problems that face the citizens of the Western Cape. We appeal to the minibus taxi industry not to interfere with these arrangements.