All entities under the Department of Transport have been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, the Portfolio Committee on Transport heard on Wednesday. The department’s Director-General, Mr Alec Moemi, noted that even though public transport enables economic activity, it is also one of the ways in which the coronavirus spreads, posing high risks to people using it. Thus, the department’s approach was one of caution, to contain the spread of the virus.

The department was briefing the portfolio committee on level 3 lockdown regulations in the transport sector. The committee heard the department has made a commitment to provide relief funding to the industry and is awaiting a response from the taxi industry on its offer. Mr Moemi clarified that the funding is an ex-gratia, a payment made when there is no legal requirement to do so. It is not intended as a subsidy or as compensation for loss of income.

Members asked questions on various issues, including the activities of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and the Road Accident Fund under level 3 lockdown, and high fare increases. Committee Chairperson Mr Mosebenzi Zwane said the department should engage the industry on all these challenges, including the fare hikes, a matter that the committee wants to see settled. “Government should be able to deal with this matter amicably, notwithstanding the challenges.”

Minister Fikile Mbalula told the committee he will engage with the taxi industry on the fare increase, as fares should not increase beyond what South Africans can afford. “Negotiations have been ongoing for some time now. The department made a commitment to support the industry.” He also said the 70% passenger loading quota under level 3 lockdown regulations has not been effectively applied and he called for more education on the issue. Mr Mbalula also updated the committee on the work done at Prasa and said the department has set a July launch date for rail service.

Committee member Mr Piet Mey commended the department on its work and said that working together is the only option during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sibongile Maputi
11 June 2020