The Department of Transport has dismissed claims that the Taxi Relief Fund (TRF) is a scam and has called on those making these assertions to desist from doing so.
The fund was established to assist minibus taxi drivers, cab drivers and e-hailing drivers, who were hard hit during the COVID-19 hard lockdowns.
On Sunday, the department said it had learned with concern, assertions doing the rounds that the TRF is a scam and that legible and qualifying taxi operators were being discouraged from applying for it.
“The department can confirm that TRF is not a scam and therefore calls upon taxi operators who have not yet applied to apply for the scheme and ignore all the misleading information.
“Taxi operators have until 31 March 2023 to apply for the relief fund, however, the department encourages operators to apply now and not wait for the last minute,” the Department said.
Government allocated a once-off ex-gratia fund to the value of R1.135 billion for the operators of minibus taxis and e-hailing services with valid operating licenses as of March 2020.
“On 30 March 2021, government issued the first directive for the provision of relief for taxi operators. This was because in South Africa, the taxi industry bore the brunt of measures meant to restrict gatherings and general mobility in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Initially, taxis were allowed to carry only 50% of their licensed vehicle capacity and this was later increased to 70% when the lockdown restrictions were eased. The industry also had to contend with increased cost of procuring cleaning materials for vehicles and sanitisers for passengers,” the department said.
The net effect of all these to the industry has been a declining revenue base and an increase in costs, which left many operators struggling to stay financially afloat.
In January, government officially launched the TRF in Sandton, Gauteng.
In order to speed up beneficiary registration to receive such relief funds, on 2 March 2022, government issued, again in terms of regulation 4(7) of the Regulations made under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, a directive set out in the Schedule on the taxi relief fund towards the impact of COVID-19 in the taxi industry.
Since the launch of the fund in January, the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), an implementing agency tasked with the disbursement of the fund on behalf of the department has been assisting taxi operators with the process of claiming their relief funds.
“The taxi operators have been receiving assistance for funding through the TRF call centre and also through physical contact with NEF employees.
“The department together with NEF have already visited six provinces to assist taxi operators to claim their fund,” the Department said.
Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, North West and Western Cape are the provinces visited so far with KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape soon to be visited.
“The Department remains optimistic that the fund will help the industry to remain operational beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The role of the taxi industry, responsible for almost 80% of the transportation of workers and millions of travel trips per year in the country’s economy, cannot be overemphasised,” the department said.