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from Australia


WORLDWIDE TAXI FOCUS from South Africa


TAXI INDUSTRY ‘FACING RUIN’ DUE TO COVID MOVEMENT BAN IN SYDNEY


Thousands of taxi drivers have been effectively forced off the road under strict public health orders for large swathes of west and SW Sydney. Currently, only “authorised work- ers” such as bus drivers and couriers are allowed to leave the eight Sydney Local Government Areas (LGAs) under strict lockdown restrictions. Taxi, rideshare and hire car drivers are excluded. According to the New South Wales Taxi Council, 75 per cent of Sydney’s taxi drivers live in one of the eight LGAs under tougher rules brought in to curb the spread of the Covid Delta strain. “Due to the high operating costs of running a taxi, just working in your own LGA isn’t enough and isn’t sustainable for these drivers,” said NSW Taxi Council deputy chief executive Nick Abrahim. “These drivers are stuck and what it’s also meant is we’ve seen thousands of these vehicles now stuck as well.” With barely any fares, drivers have been dipping into savings to cover ongoing expenses such as insurance, radio and fees. Some drivers have given up driving their taxis around with taxis sitting outside their homes for more than a month. During last year’s lockdown, taxi operators could access JobKeeper and a rescue package of $2,900 per taxi but the embattled industry said the disaster payments this time don’t go far enough. Australian Taxi Operations Association president George Haider urged the NSW government to allow taxi drivers to leave their LGA for work, insisting drivers can be Covid-safe. “We sanitise the taxi every single day, we wear the mask, and we have a QR code in the taxi so we should be authorised workers to travel around,” he said. “We won’t see the other side [of this lockdown] unless the Transport Minister helps out.” The taxi council’s Mr Abrahim said without a similar scheme it would be “very, very difficult” for many drivers to get back on the road. In a statement, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said it would continue to support the industry and the “safety of drivers, passengers and the community is of the utmost importance”.


90


DEAL STRUCK BETWEEN CAPE TAXI ASSOCIATIONS AFTER WEEKS OF VIOLENCE


On Monday 2 August, a ceasefire and peace accord was announced by provincial and national authorities between taxi oper- ators who have been contesting routes. South African Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, announced the truce among taxi associations following several weeks of engagements to quell the ongoing violence. The Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (CATA) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta) have been embroiled in an ongoing deadly taxi war over routes. Communities have been living in fear after more than 20 people were killed in July. It led to the deployment of police and the army to try to restore order. Mbalula said they had been working closely with the Western Cape government over the past three weeks to find a solution to the ongoing conflict. “Having evaluated input from the affected associations, based on the understanding that government has a duty to provide public transport that is safe and responsive to public needs, government has determined measures which must be adhered to by all affected parties.” “This list of measures constitutes tangible action by govern- ment to stabilise the taxi industry operations in the province. “We will continue to work closely with other law enforce- ment authorities to ensure the safety of the public and ensure the rule of law underpins operations,” Mbalula said. However, less than a day after the peace accord between the warring taxi factions, police reported another taxi shooting at a taxi rank. A police spokesman said: “Upon arrival, law enforcement found a body of a 56-year-old man with visible gunshots to his face and chest. The unknown suspects fled the scene and are yet to be arrested. The motive for the attack is possibly taxi-related.” It’s not yet clear whether this is related to the ongoing conflict over Route 97, the centre of the bloody taxi war that’s left more than 80 people dead since the start of this year. The route is still closed despite a commitment by CATA and Codeta to work through their issues in arbitration. Western Cape Transport Minister, Daylin Mitchell, said he would not reopen Route 97 until he was certain the violence had come to an end.


SEPTEMBER 2021


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