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Pretoria – Complacency is not an option right now amid the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, where over 17 000 recently tested positive for the virus in Gauteng.
This was the message delivered to taxi drivers, passengers, formal and informal traders in Pretoria by a team of government officials led by Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula on Thursday.
Mbalula was joined by Gauteng Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo and ministers Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and Mammoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who are currently acting as ministers for the Presidency and the Department of Health respectively.
Reacting to the shock of Covid-19 infections continuing to soar while hospitals in both the private and public sector continued to experience pressure in capacity, the officials visited taxi ranks in Marabastad, Bloed Street and Bosman to monitor and enforce compliance.
President of the SA National Taxi Council Phillip Taaibosch and chairperson Johannes Mkhonza endorsed the “political will” to show the people that they supported the taxi industry which transports about 16 million commuters daily.
Taaibosch said for them it was about ensuring that the taxi industry did not aid the virus by allowing it to spread between people.
He said strict measures were in place to ensure taxi drivers were reminded of their responsibilities to protect the public and those found not wearing masks were handed R500 fines.
Mamabolo said it was encouraging to see all spheres of government coming together with industry to show the public that the government was serious in its battle against the third wave of the pandemic.
Mbalula told taxi operators that the government was prioritising the vaccination of taxi drivers next, after teachers who started receiving their jabs on Wednesday.
He said he and Taaibosch would be part of the group vaccinated alongside taxi drivers because it is their constituency.
“Our turn will come. President Cyril Ramaphosa led from the front because we were addressing the fear that the vaccine is not safe. So we said to the president and Deputy President David Mabuza ’let it start with you so that we can see that it works’ and we can see that workers and our president are doing well,” Mbalula said.
He said assured the public that government is going to get the vaccine and would make sure that those who must receive it first do so.
He said MPs have also not received the vaccine.
He also encouraged people to be patient and maximise compliance, saying this virus has killed even those people who were fighting against it, like former minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu and other MECs across the country.
“We lost taxi drivers. We lost ordinary people. We lost businessmen. We lost the poorest of the poor. We are burying people every weekend.
“I stand here right now, I have a family member I must bury due to Covid-19. We are burying people everyday.”
Ntshavheni said the government was experiencing “vaccine apartheid” whereby some first world countries were holding on to the vaccines for their own populations, even those that had already vaccinated at least 80% of their population.
She said South Africa was currently sitting at just 5% of its population vaccinated, a figure they would have surpassed if these countries waived their intellectual property rights to enable third world countries to produce vaccines locally.