Pretoria, South Africa – The taxi industry has welcomed the plan by the Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure in Gauteng to honor and recognize drivers affected by Covid-19.
MEC Jacob Mamabolo told leaders of the National Taxi Alliance and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) in Tshwane to compile and submit a list of their members who were hard done by during the pandemic.
Mamabolo said much like front-line practitioners in the health sector were recognized and a memorial service held for those who had died, there was a need for a specific kind of ceremony to recognize taxi operators who carried on working despite the dangers posed by the virus.
Mamabolo said: “The taxi industry, which is the biggest carrier of commuters in public transport, have been holding the fort, and they have been at the front line as well. They have been protecting lives.
“Just like the government and the trade unions have held prayer sessions, commemorations and memorials to remember workers who died in the front line, I also feel that here in our province, in public transport, we must also have those types of sessions.
“This is to say, let us remember those who lost their lives so that their lives were not in vain, their efforts were not in vain, and to also appreciate that the taxi industry has done a good job.”
He said the taxi industry has always felt that the government does not appreciate them and respect them, but it was the one industry that has been consistently done what it agreed upon since alert level 5.
Santaco’s spokesperson in Tshwane, McDonald Makata, said they were impressed by Mamabolo’s intention to honor taxi operators because people sometimes forgot that taxi operators were also affected by the pandemic.
He said Santaco had already buried nine taxi owners in Tshwane who had died of COVID-19.
Makata said: “While it is difficult to gather the stats because our drivers are not people who like to complain or report everything that they survive, we are well aware that there are members who at some point were infected and had minor complications, but they bounced back.
“We are communicating with the secretaries of our associations to help us gather the statistics so that hopefully by January we can have this ceremony and a memorial service for those who lost their lives for choosing to work when it was not fashionable to do so.
“This list is not only going to involve taxi operators but everyone in the industry, including colleagues in the office, the queue marshals and the executive committee members who head the different taxi associations.”