Daniel Kgarane is one of the many taxi operators in the country living in constant fear of losing his taxis because some financial lenders demand full payments in outstanding interests that at times balloon into thousands of rands beyond ordinary operators financial reach.
Last year banks committed to offering financial relief to taxi operators – giving them three to four-period so-called holiday payment through which they could not pay any instalment towards their vehicle as Covid-19 pandemic began in early March. The National Taxi Alliance and the South African National Taxi Council both engaged various banks trying to negotiate on behalf of their members but it seems nothing concrete came out of that.
Now more than 10 months have passed and taxi operators like Kgarane are still haunted by banks that threaten them with repossession even today. Kgarane, who is a member of North West NTA-aligned Sewedi Taxi Association in North West, says that the NTA had promised to help them with convincing banks not to threaten and harass them. He even laments the fact that the taxi industry’s Taxi Covid-19 relief fund money promised to operators by Minister Fikile Mbalula never materialized even to this day.
“A bank representative has been here three times telling me to pay over R300 000 for my taxi and another R200 000 for the other otherwise they will repossess the vehicles when they next come if I don’t pay,” says Kgarane.
His taxis use the Mafikeng to Potchefstroom daily. Kgarane believes that their senior structures are partly also to blame for him and other members’ miseries because in spite of all the promises made about helping taxi operators overcome their financial woes things have become worse.
“These top people always say they will speak on our behalf but that never happens. We were at a march (NTA march over Covid-19 relief fund for taxis) and they said all these good things but still today they don’t tell us what is happening with the money,” said Kgarane.
Trevor Browse, managing director of Motor Finance Corporation (MFC), the vehicle financing arm of Nedbank, said they had not repossessed any taxi since February 2020 and said they see the taxi industry as a sector that is viable for the economy.
“If there be (a case of repossession), each case would be treated on its own merit and circumstances. Repossession would be the last possible resort and we would work in cooperation with the taxi owner to try and find ways to assist them to retain ownership and viability of their taxis as a priority,” says Browse.
West Bank, through their consultant Ilana Salant has refused to comment.
“West Bank declines to comment on this matter,” read a one-line statement from Salant.