Back to school for taxi drivers as fight against Covid-19 intensifies

SANTACO, Distell and NLTC in ground-breaking partnership to make taxi's and taxi ranks safer for commuters.

Taxi operators and drivers have brushed up on their COVID-19 protocols, road safety and business skills, while also learning to handle their customers with care, at a training session in Soweto.

The training is the product of a ground-breaking partnership between SANTACO, Distell and the National Liquor Traders Council.

The partnership will see the two largest black-owned industries in the country and the largest locally owned liquor company work together to enhance COVID-19 compliance in the taxi and tavern sectors, as the country braces for the impact of a third wave of the pandemic.

The training is the product of a ground-breaking partnership between SANTACO, Distell and the National Liquor Traders Council.

The partnership will also seek to reduce road traffic accidents, combat gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), promote black entrepreneurship and drive the responsible consumption of alcohol.

Distell has invested R5.8-million in the distribution of sanitisers and face masks at taxi ranks, training in COVID-19 safety measures, GBVF awareness, business skills and customer care, basic vehicle checks and road and pedestrian safety, as well as first aid training for taxi drivers and owners.

Tavern owners will receive similar training, as well as training in principles of responsible trading and sustainable development. The partnership dramatically expands the reach of Distell’s existing programmes to promote road safety and the responsible consumption of alcohol, as well as its work to address gender-based violence and femicide.

The taxi and tavern industries have a combined annual turnover of R85-billion and support more than two million livelihoods, mainly in townships.

SANTACO President Phillip Taaibosch said the taxi industry’s partnership with liquor traders and Distell created a mass-based, grassroots platform to drive road safety and COVID-compliance, tackle gender-based violence and promote a culture of responsible drinking on an unprecedented scale.

“Our combined membership reaches the vast majority of South Africans, on their way to and from work every day or when they socialise, in every corner of the country. Training of taxi drivers is part of our commitment to ensure the industry’s maximum compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols, and help prevent a third wave taking hold in our country,” Taaibosch said.

Distell SA MD Wim Buhrmann said partnerships were key to addressing many societal challenges and his company was excited to partner with SANTACO to improve road and COVID-19 safety.

“These are serious challenges that require us to join hands as a society and each play our part to prevent a third wave of COVID-19 and end the needless carnage on our roads. Distell believes we can make a real difference if we take a holistic, evidence-based approach and work closely with significant sectors like the taxi and tavern industries.There is a big socio-economic dimension to many of our challenges – from gender-based violence and femicide, to binge drinking, crime and violence - and driving sustainable economic development, promoting entrepreneurship and stimulating job creation are all part of the solution. We’re proud to support taxi and tavern owners to build a better future together, that will benefit all parties,” said Buhrmann.

National Liquor Traders Council Convenor Lucky Ntimane said with winter approaching and fears of a third wave of COVID-19, it was more important than ever to remain vigilant and practise COVID-19 safety.

“The sanitiser and face masks donated by Distell will help taxi operators to keep commuters safe and the training they received today raises awareness of the need to comply with the COVID-19 safety protocols,” said Ntimane.

“We are all in this together and it’s encouraging to see partnerships between large companies like Distell and small black-owned businesses that aim to keep everyone safe.”

The parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which commits them to continued co-operation throughout the year. In promoting responsible alcohol consumption, the partnership will also explore collaboration with the tavern industry to drastically reduce driving under the influence of alcohol. The parties have for now set a target to reduce road accidents involving taxis and pedestrian fatalities significantly.

According to official government statistics, more than 10 000 fatal road accidents are reported every year, with more than a third involving pedestrians. Close to 60% of all fatal crashes are attributed to faulty tyres.
The training started in Welkom in the Free State, with about 50 participants a day, and now moves to Gauteng, to be followed by KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape in the coming weeks, targeting 500 participants per region.

Programmes will be focused on a total of 75 taxi ranks across all provinces, in identified hotspots using statistics for population density, road accidents and pedestrian fatalities and areas with a high incidence of GBVF cases.