The taxi industry has been urged to assist in the fight against COVID-19.  Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, made the call during an inspection of taxi ranks on Thursday. Mbalula and several other government officials monitored compliance to COVID-19 regulations in Pretoria.

Mbalula, Gauteng Transport MEC, Jacob Mamabolo, acting Health Minister, Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and acting Minister in the Presidency – Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, interacted with drivers, owners and passengers at the Bosman, Blood and Marabastad taxi ranks.

This as the country continues to grapple with a third wave of COVID-19 infections. Gauteng is the epicentre of the pandemic.

Mbalula says its everyone’s responsibility to preserve lives and comply with lockdown regulations while the vaccination programme is rolled out.

“We want to vaccinate our people as a measure which preserves fatalities and preserve lives. If it was possible we would make everyone queue and get vaccinated and make it enough for everybody, but it’s not the case. It caught us unexpected, though we’ve the scientific now  and laboratories to produce our own thing. We’ve learnt out of it. Blade Nzimande is working flat out on that with his ministry and everybody else to get this right,” the Transport Minister says.

President of the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), Phillip Taaibosch, has appealed to the government to speed up the vaccination process for taxi operators.

“We are engaging with government and I’m sure very soon we will be engaging with government when taxi drivers will be vaccinated. We are also engaging further to convince government to understand that while they’re talking about essential workers, the very same drivers are transporting those essential workers to their various workplaces. Hence, they are becoming part of the frontline workers,” he says.

The Tshwane Metro experienced a spike in positive cases in recent days. Taxi operators and commuters in the Pretoria CBD showed mixed reaction to the vaccine programme,

“What I can say is that the government must speed up the vaccination for the drivers, passengers, queue marshals and everyone in the rank,.” adds Taaibosch.

COVID-19 regulations compliance at Pretoria taxi ranks: 

‘Rich countries’ negative attitude’

Ntshavheni on the other hand says the government is concerned about the negative attitude of rich countries in sharing their vaccines with developing states.

Ntshavheni has confirmed that the health regulatory body, SAHPRA, is finalising its quality control of vaccines from China and Russia.

“It’s not certain vaccines but all vaccines that are implemented in this country that are COVID-19 related or not, are approved by SAHPRA for quality. And J&J, AstraZeneca and Pfizer…they had their pilot site in South Africa so that was easy to fast track. But you then have these other vaccines that are made in China and Russia,” she says.

Over 16 million people across the country rely on taxis daily. Many believe that speeding up the vaccination of taxi operators could help to minimise the spread of the coronavirus. There have also been calls for law enforcement agencies to impose penalties on small business operators and taxi drivers who defy COVID-19 regulations.

Ministers Ntshavheni and Mbalula monitor COVID regulations compliance at Pretoria taxi ranks: