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With government and the taxi industry on a ‘collision course’ as a result of open defiance of lockdown regulations, law enforcement agencies are under pressure to maintain the order. Meanwhile, Gauteng mulls tighter restrictions as coronavirus caseloads begin to soar.
TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, Tuesday 30 JUNE
Taxi industry not backing down as Mbalula calls for calm
The bitter impasse between the department of transport, headed by minister Fikile Mbalula, and the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) is headed towards a volatile showdown. With neither side refusing to back down, police have been roped in to quell any lawlessness resulting from the taxi industry’s open defiance of capacity and travel restrictions.
Santaco, which has bemoaned the lack of government support following months of decreased revenue and ongoing passenger limitations, has order all taxis to operate at full capacity and cross provincial lines without the use of permits. The association, which recently orchestrated a strike in Gauteng, warned that if one of its taxis were to be impounded for disobeying government directives, a nationwide shutdown of services would ensue.
Mbalula, who has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the volatile situation, hit back at the taxi industry, saying that lawlessness would not be tolerated and that both the police and military were duty-bound to halt rebellion under the National State of Disaster.
Violence erupted in Mpumalanga on Monday, when police attempted to detain disobedient taxi drivers. Drivers, who engaged in a shutdown after facing police pressure, were eventually dispersed through the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Gauteng may soon face tougher lockdown restrictions
Gauteng may be the first province to experience a set of tighter restrictions in line with government’s risk-adjusted, district-based strategy. This was confirmed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku who noted that the province may be subjected to an ‘intermittent lockdown’ in an attempt to curb the burgeoning caseload.
Gauteng currently has the most active COVID-19 cases in the currently and is only eclipsed by the Western Cape in terms of cumulative infections.
Masuku said that public spaces remained a primary concern, with high volumes of foot traffic and social interactions blamed for the sudden spike in infections. Masuku explained that an ‘intermittent lockdown’ would tighten restrictions — similar to what was experienced during Levels 4 and 5 – for a specified period of time.
In the meantime, the health department is focusing on increasing bed capacity and ventilator systems in the province.
Eastern Cape healthcare under the microscope
The Eastern Cape, which has seen a sudden surge of coronavirus cases, has come under fierce fire for its dire medical response. Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that at least six clinics in Buffalo City had been forced to close because of staff infections. Additionally, the province’s schools have been severely impacted by the outbreak; with more adolescent infections recorded in the Eastern Cape than anywhere else in South Africa.
With the province’s healthcare system teetering on the brink of collapse due to a lack of resources, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to place Eastern Cape Health under administration. Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health, said:
“This government cannot simply ignore the plight of thousands of people in the Eastern Cape who are dying due to years of neglect of the health system.”
The Eastern Cape has been crippled by recent controversies, including an exorbitant ‘Scooter Project’ and the discovery of hundreds of COVID-19 tests which were dumped along the N2 highway.
More airports to open
While international passenger flights remain prohibited, with the exception of those authorised by the Transport Minister, seven more airports are set to resume operations on 1 July 2020.
At an aviation industry briefing on Monday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said in addition to the airports (OR Tambo, Lanseria, Cape Town International and King Shaka International) that are currently operational, the following would open on 1 July:
- Bram Fischer International Airport;
- Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
- Pietermaritzburg Airport;
- Port Elizabeth International Airport;
- Richardsbay Airport;
- Skukuza Airport, and
- Upington International Airport.
“As more airports are opened, this will naturally increase the number of passengers at airports and therefore measures have been put in place to ensure that passengers are prepared for their experience at the airports to avoid congestion, mainly at security check points,” said Mbalula, noting that operations will have to be managed properly come 1 July. (Source: SAnews)
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