South Africa

CORONAVIRUS #LOCKDOWN

Public transport lockdown regulations to be eased for social grants access, says Mbalula

A bus drives through District Six, Cape Town. 26 July, 2018.

Operating hours for taxis and buses to be relaxed this week to accommodate the collection of social grants.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced he had relaxed some transport lockdown regulations for the week of 30 March to 2 April to allow social grant recipients to collect their funds. This was “in order to cater to the transportation needs of society’s most vulnerable”, Mbalula said. The relaxed rules affect buses and taxis and will apply between 5am and 8pm.

These grants include South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants for the elderly, and disability, child-support and foster care grants. Mbalula said grant recipients are required to carry their identity documents and Sassa cards while using taxis to help law enforcement officials carry out their duties.

Mbalula said the relaxing of regulations came after “a number of industry bodies made representations on the relaxation of hours public transport vehicles are allowed to operate. A similar request was made by the Minister of Social Development, Minister Lindiwe Zulu… Having considered Minister Zulu’s request and representations made by various industry bodies, including the taxi industry, I have decided to amend the Public Transport Directions in order to accommodate grant beneficiaries”.

The arrangement will be valid only for this week. Previously, Zulu had announced that social grants could be collected on 30 and 31 March for those receiving old-age or disability grants. Child-support and other grants can be collected from 1 April. According to the Sassa Annual Report of 2018/19, at the end of March 2019, there were more than 17.8 million social grants paid, benefiting almost 31% of South Africa’s population.

On 25 March, Mbalula announced taxis and e-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) could operate during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown only during peak hours of 5am-9am and then again from 4pm-8pm — but only for those deemed to be essential service workers and for those who were making visits to doctors, supermarkets or pharmacies. Under the transport regulations, buses are allowed to carry only essential service workers.

Read in Daily Maverick: Some transport services will operate, but under strict conditions for 21 days, says Mbalula

The regulations came into effect on 27 March, when a 21-day lockdown ordered by President Cyril Rampahosa came into effect. This lockdown is an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

After Mbalula’s announcement, Cape Town Executive Mayor Dan Plato appealed to residents to “do their utmost to avoid visiting shops in the next three to four days, to allow grant beneficiaries an opportunity to do so”.

“Furthermore, we appeal to residents to take into account that the distribution of social grants will commence tomorrow (Monday)… We are therefore expecting an increase in the number of persons who will leave their homes to collect their grants and to visit the shops to stock up on essential goods,” said Plato. DM

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