Brian Joss – The economic impact of the stringent lockdown regulations enforced to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt across South Africa.
Many sectors have been adversely affected through the loss of revenue, jobs and salary cuts and reduced customers, and the country’s burgeoning taxi industry did not escape the economic downturn.
With the country moving to level 1 regulations and businesses slowly starting to revitalise themselves, it is still evident what the impact of six months of lockdown has levelled on the economy. As with many companies offering assistance to their affected customers, WesBank, as the country’s leader in vehicle and asset finance, has reached out to taxi owners and operators to offer them financial advice and support during the most challenging times of the lockdown period.
“One of our key focus areas has always been to assist taxi owners regarding proactive taxi account management and keeping their repayments up to date.
To keep their businesses ticking over, they need to ensure that their vehicles are safely on the road commuting passengers. We encourage any taxi owner who may be experiencing financial challenges in making the monthly repayments to communicate with the bank as early as possible to discuss possible alternative payment arrangements,” says Lebo Gaoaketse, WesBank’s Head of Marketing and Communication.
In Gauteng for example, low capacity forms of transport such as minibus taxis and private cars are the backbone of the transport network, as opposed to high-capacity modes such as rail and buses. This is one of many findings of the 2019/20 Gauteng Household Transport Survey (GHTS), conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), on behalf of the Gauteng government. The CSIR report also reveals that minibus taxis account for 23% of all peak-period trips in the province.
In light of this, and considering the essential role the taxi industry plays in the lives of commuters, the bank advises its customers to keep a close watch on their finances and budget appropriately. Customers should consistently review their income versus expenses and ensure they have enough money to meet their financial obligations. While defaults on payments will result in a consultation between the bank and the customer, it is paramount that customers understand that WesBank will only repossess a vehicle as a last resort if no alternative payment arrangement can be reached with the customer.
However, should the taxi owner require assistance from WesBank with regards to the monthly repayments, the following steps should be taken:
- Customers are encouraged to phone the Arrears Call Centre on 0861 150 150 as soon as they find themselves unable to make a full payment on their account.
- Customers can also visit the online service website to make immediate payments or ask an agent to contact them.
- Customers are encouraged to pay an amount they can afford if they are unable to pay the full monthly instalment, instead of missing the instalment altogether.
- Customers will be requested to make a repayment plan for the payment of future instalments inclusive of any arrear amounts.
- If the customer does not contact the Call Centre, the customer may receive an SMS reminding them to pay.
- The customer will be telephonically contacted if their account falls into arrears. The agent will agree to a repayment plan suited to both WesBank and customer.
- Where we have no contact with a customer – an external agent will be requested to visit the customer’s work and home address.
- Where vehicles are over three instalments in arrears, the customer will be requested to make an immediate payment to reduce the arrears or will be requested to voluntarily terminate the agreement. Customers are urged to contact the Arrears Call Centre prior to this action.
- Where customers are over three (3) instalments in arrears and are unable to make a payment and are not willing to voluntarily surrender the vehicle – WesBank will apply for a court order for the return of the vehicle.
- The customer is again encouraged to contact the Arrears Call Centre to make a suitable arrangement for the outstanding amount.
- When a customer’s vehicle is repossessed via a court order the customer will then need to pay the settlement amount for the return of the vehicle.
- If the customer is unable to pay the arrears or settlement figure after repossession, the vehicle will be sold via a public auction.
CAPTION: Rank and file: taxi drivers, like everyone else, are having a hard time. Picture: Motorpress