With the special circumstances of the COVID-19 lockdown in Morocco, taxi drivers endured a severe lack of activity.
Rabat – The Moroccan capital of Rabat saw unconventional protests on June 30 when Moroccan taxi drivers took to the streets shirtless and with chains around their wrists and necks.
Taxi drivers are condemning “the lack of responsiveness” from the Wilaya (prefecture) of Rabat following their requests to resume operations at standard capacity, carrying six passengers instead of three.
The protests kicked off with a majority of demonstrators being drivers of “grand taxis,” which operate in Morocco as a means of transport between cities, or within large cities, linking fixed stations.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior issued a circular in mid-March stipulating that taxis could only carry a maximum of three passengers in order to implement social distancing.
With the special circumstances of the COVID-19 lockdown, Morocco’s taxi drivers endured a severe lack of activity. Even after the recent ease of the lockdown, the Ministry of the Interior’s circular is still valid.
On June 10, the Moroccan Ministry of Equipment allowed all transport means to resume operations, with a 50% capacity rate.
The ease of the lockdown in Morocco allowed the reopening of many businesses. However, strict measures accompany the resumption of activity, mainly social distancing.
The protestors took to the streets in order to call for justice for drivers operating taxis. Operators of other means of transport, such as buses, the tramway, and even three-wheeled motorcycles, were allowed to double their fares in order to mitigate the financial loss that accompanies the 50% passenger capacity cap.
They also argue that some other transport providers are not, in practice, respecting the reduced capacity measure and are therefore experiencing less financial stress.
Taxi drivers say that carrying three only passengers, at the standard fare, can only cover their fuel expenses in the best-case scenario.
The Moroccan professionals decided to call on the government to take measures to reduce their expenses for the period of severely limited work, such as the rental of taxi permits and insurance expenses, as they look to resume standard activity.
After three months of significantly reduced activity, total expenses amounted to over MAD 13,500 ($1,393) for the average taxi driver.
The protests in Rabat influenced taxi drivers in the twin city of Sale, who also mobilized for protests, while some drivers in other Moroccan cities decided to unilaterally impose extra fees on passengers to cope with the crisis.
Taxi drivers resorted to protesting to express their refusal to resume activity until the Wilaya of Rabat takes their demands into consideration.
On the other hand, the ease of the lockdown in Morocco led to the expansion of operations, in line with the eased measures, of the Rabat-Sale tramway company.
The company increased fleet operations to function from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday to Sunday, rather than 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Trams will pass by every 15 minutes from Monday to Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Fleet will arrive every 10 minutes from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m during the same days.
The tramway company’s expansion of activity includes respect for sanitary measures, one example of which is their provision of hydrological gel through dispensers installed near the entrance doors of trams.