Honourable Speaker/Deputy Speaker
Honourable Premier and Cabinet Colleagues
Honourable Leader of the Opposition
Honourable Members of the WCPP
Speaker, in his speech last week the Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities set out clearly the nature and extent of the onslaught we faced in the Western Cape once the pandemic started to make its impact felt. He also unpacked the financial provisions which had to be mobilised and committed in order to make it possible for this government to respond effectively in the best interests of the residents and the future of this Province – provisions which at the end of the day have not been bolstered by national support, despite undertakings that they would be.
But Speaker, as is the case with all real emergencies, our capacity to survive and ultimately move ahead was not dependent solely on our financial and material resources. It needed also the courage of our people from all walks of life and the skilful and innovative management of the available resources.
Key to our survival was the optimal functioning of our health system and the successful management of isolation and quarantine processes which operate in support of this system. This was not always easy to achieve as the overall national lockdown requirements for curfews and the hours within which public transport could operate did not coincide with the working hours of key frontline health staff.
Speaker, I am glad to say that the relevant officials in my Department rose to the challenge magnificently by devising, negotiating and implementing the Red Dot service – established to provide critical transport services in the fight against Covid-19 and consisting of a fleet of 250 specially-fitted minibus vehicles provided by the minibus taxi industry through a newly established company, Umanyano Travel Services (UTS) set up by DTPW with SANTACO Western Cape and a 3 month contract concluded in record time.
My Department has been working for many years to include the minibus taxi industry in the formal transport system. The challenges of Covid-19 proved to be an excellent opportunity to test a formal relationship. The name Red Dot Taxi derives from the use of a Red Dot sticker on the vehicle to ensure that it is recognisable to passengers and law enforcement. The system includes two service components.
The first is the transport of frontline healthcare workers in the evenings from healthcare facilities to their homes. This was originally introduced due to the regulations preventing the operation of public transport after 19h00. While these regulations have since been relaxed, the popular service is continuing to operate to ensure that healthcare workers, who are so critical in the fight against Covid-19, can get home safely in the evenings. This service is known as Red Dot Lite.
Red Dot Lite is currently serving 24 healthcare facilities across the Cape Town Metro, including major facilities such as Groote Schuur, Tygerberg, Red Cross Children’s, Khayelitsha District and New Somerset Hospitals.
To date, the service has provided 36,000 healthcare worker trips and transports an average of 720 passengers per day.
The second service, the Red Dot Taxi service, is the transport of people to and from quarantine and isolation facilities. Health authorities in the Province have offered public facilities for those who have either tested positive for Covid-19 or have been exposed to a positive contact so that they do not spread the virus in their households and communities. This is a key Covid-19 mitigation strategy. The Red Dot Taxi service transports people safely to and from these facilities, covering admissions, transfers and discharges.
The service is operational across the Province, providing Q and I transport services in the City of Cape Town as well as the five Districts. To date, the service has transported 6,898 passengers to and from Q and I facilities, with 3,876 in the Metro and 3,022 outside the Metro. DTPW works closely with the Department of Health to manage the operations of the service, including close daily collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Centre.
The Red Dot Taxi service includes several important safety features to protect the driver and passengers. Vehicles are cleaned and sanitised after every trip, there is a protective screen between the driver cabin and the passengers, drivers do not interact with passengers or leave the driver cabin, and hand sanitiser is available onboard.
Technology is a key part of the Red Dot Taxi service. Trackers enable service quality to be monitored and drivers make use of a special device which provides dispatch instructions and directions.
Passengers can provide feedback on service quality and safety via a free cellphone-based USSD passenger feedback system and for Red Dot Lite, cellphone-based booking systems have been developed allowing healthcare workers to book their travel in advance. All these systems are integrated into the Department’s Transport Hub.
Speaker, we believe that the successful partnership established with the minibus taxi industry to deliver the Red Dot Taxi service forms a strong basis for future collaboration using an approach we have called Blue Dot Taxi, named after the Blue Dot sticker which would be applied to participating operators.
This is a voluntary incentive programme in which operators can choose to participate. Services would be carefully monitored using our technology systems. We believe this is a crucial initiative to ensure that minibus taxi services are safe in the Western Cape during the Covid-19 peak and which would provide the basis for further improvements in service quality and safety in the industry beyond Covid-19. At the request of the national Department of Transport, we have made all these ideas and innovations available to them. There is no need for motorbike sidecars to transport patients.
I thank you.