WATCH | Taxi drivers to feel the financial pinch during 21-day lockdown

Drivers at the Retreat taxi rank in Cape Town sit around reading newspapers, while others stand huddled together, chatting to pass the time.

On a normal day, they would be out and about, hustling and bustling around the suburbs, malls and businesses, but things have changed considerably since 5 March when South Africa recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus. 

There have been fewer passengers, resulting in less trips for the drivers.

The taxi rank, situated in the southern suburbs, services communities in Retreat, Muizenberg and Westlake. Pollsmoor Prison and Blue Route Mall in Tokai are two of the main destinations on their routes. 

"The prison stopped allowing visitors two weeks ago. They were the majority of our passengers," one driver told News24. 

Worried

Drivers are worried about the lack of income during the national shutdown, starting at midnight on Thursday.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday said taxis would only be allowed to transport essential services workers and "those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements" between 05:00 and 09:00 and 16:00 and 20:00.

JJ Jacobs, who has been a taxi driver for 16 years, told News24 he doesn't know what he will do during the lockdown.

"I can tell you that there are a lot of drivers, including myself, who live on a day-to-day basis. We can't afford to stop working," he explained. "There are guys who don't even have bread money for tomorrow, but they must stay at home."

Siyabonga Venter, the breadwinner in his household, has a family of six depending on him.

"The restaurant my wife worked at has also closed because of the coronavirus. I will be the only one earning money in the house," he said.

Lockdown

Venter said he hadn't planned on the lockdown and will have to "take it as it comes".

Chairperson of the Retreat Taxi Association, JJ Maans, told News24 that they have put measures in place for the drivers. 

"In the event that we are allowed to operate, we will be reducing the number of taxis operating on our routes," he explained.

He said that the 100 taxis operating at the rank would be scaled down to half each day. The other half will work the following day. This will allow all the drivers to receive an income during the lockdown. 

Compensation for drivers not working is an issue the owners have to see to. 

"From our side, we have tried to do as much as possible to accommodate our drivers. It's a fifty-fifty arrangement we are putting in place," Maans said. 

Maans estimated that the rank will lose up to R4 million during the lockdown.