- Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula's attempt to defuse tensions amid the taxi strike was short-lived
- Mbalula was eventually rushed away from a crowd of operators when the situation became tense
- The minister had called for peace and tried to smooth over the situation that left commuters stranded
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula attempted to cool an increasingly heated situation with the taxi industry on Monday.
Briefly.co.za reported that the shutdown protests had seen the SA National Defence Force getting involved after tensions simmered.
Nevertheless, Mbalula had tried his best to resolve the differences over the R1.1 billion Covid-19 relief fund for the sector:
"The decision to avail R1,135 billion to the taxi industry as relief support was not an easy one. We literally had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to reach this amount, because we believe the taxi industry is deserving of support as the largest mover of our people."
Urging for peaceful protesting to be normalised, Mbalula tried to make it clear the aim was to provide relief, not compensation:
"In Soshanguve today, I pleaded with the taxi industry to protest peacefully and not block roads. The relief fund isn’t compensation but a measure by the government to assist the industry. Covid-19 has had a bad impact on all industries and we’ve had to share government resources."
While the minister was fielding questions, his security team had decided the agitated crowd was a security risk. This resulted in Mbalula being whisked away with a police escort hot on his heels.
The minister had made it clear that the state simply can't afford more than around R5 000 per taxi, but the industry has demanded that the fund should be increased to R10 billion.
The Economic Freedom Fighters had signalled support for this call, adamant that taxis are a vital service to SA and demanding at least R20 000 per taxi instead.
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