The Namibian Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) has welcomed the relaxation of Covid-19 measures by the government, including the removal of restrictions on passenger numbers in public transport, private vehicles and group tour operators.
Among other relaxed measures, President Hage Geingob announced on Wednesday that vehicle
occupancy can revert to the respective carrying capacities of a particular vehicle and fares to be charged will return to normal.
The reduced number of passengers’ capacities was necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic as a means of health protocols.
“We appreciate the
announcement by the President. This is something we have been waiting for. We have been very much at pain by carrying passengers at the half, especially long-distance buses. It was not easy for us,” says Nabta chairperson Pendapala Nakathingo.
Despite, the lifting of restriction, he said operators in the public transport sector still faces challenges such as huge losses incurred back from March when the first national lockdown came into force.
Nakathingo stressed that while the prices were increased with 15%, passengers were not paying the prices determined as per the Covid-19 requirements.
He has requested the government to consider giving transport operators a relief package to the public operators not to pay the mass charges for this year while they recover next year.
Nabta has been writing letters to the government for such a relief package but to no avail, he said. “Our request from the government is that we have people paying for the logbook, especially long-distance buses and mass distance charges. They are charged per kilometre,” he said.
“From March until today (yesterday), the buses have been running up and down and the kilometres are going high. They are not making money because the buses are loading at half price. This operator is expected to go and renew the operator cards and pay the mass charges, which can go up to N$20 000, according to the kilometres. He is expected to go and pay but didn’t make money.”
Another concern for Nabta is hefty traffic fines that are issued to public transport operators.
Nakathingo noted that some drivers are languishing in jail, while others have to cease operating taxis and buses because they cannot afford to pay off these traffic fines.
“Sometimes, it’s not their fault because they offload passengers at undesignated places. We are asking the government to consider those tickets.
We ask the government to consider and reduce all outstanding fines at least to 50% as a Covid-19 relief package. Nabta is ready to arrange to pay off the other 50%. That relief can be given up to next year February,” he appealed.