There was a celebratory atmosphere at the Polokwane taxi rank this week as Limpopo transport MEC Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya got her hands dirty — well, clean, technically — by fumigating minibus taxis. Clad in masks and with sanitisers in hand, taxi bosses, drivers, marshals and passengers could not hide their jubilation at the delivery of ten 25-litre containers of disinfectant and a dozen spraying tanks, donated by the provincial department.
This was part of an intervention at taxis ranks across the province, after reports that taxi operators were out of pocket and could not afford to fumigate their vehicles. Some 18,000 commuters a day pass through the main Polokwane rank, identified as a Covid-19 hotspot.
Addressing the crowd, Lerule-Ramakhanya, flanked by Capricorn district municipality mayor John Mpe, reminded passengers that the new Covid variant was spreading fast, and that the government therefore had to act fast — as did ordinary South Africans.
“We are here today to remind you to always comply with Covid-19 regulations because this virus has got stronger. We have to work together as a unit to curb the spread. I urge drivers and owners to disinfect their taxis every night after work,” said Lerule-Ramakhanya.
Mpe vowed that the fumigating of taxis would now be done more frequently.
“The district command council has decided to go beyond the taxi rank. We will also be disinfecting traditional leaders’ offices, seeking volunteers and recalling health workers to come and assist with this deadly virus,” said Mpe.
Earlier this week, Lerule-Ramakhanya launched the first leg of the programme at the Tzaneen taxi rank, 60km from Polokwane. Commuters, drivers and food vendors applauded the MEC for implementing measures at the ranks.
One vendor, Doctor Mnisi, who sells cooked mealies and snacks, was relieved to see buckets of disinfectant being distributed.
“Here is where we get our bread [make money]. We rely on sanitisers and masks for protection, but since there will be regular disinfection we will feel relief,” he said.
Lawrence Ramothwala, a driver, who is at the Polokwane rank for 12 hours each day, says there should be a better system for handling money.
“It hurts coming here every day to face possible infection because you never know who carries the virus. It could be the person handing you the money, next to you. Co-operation, cleanliness and compliance should be key to pushing back the scourge,” Ramothwala said.
Another food vendor at the Polokwane taxi rank, Makgatlela Mothiba, was more concerned about people failing to adhere to social distancing.
“I come here at 6am to 7pm and witness people standing in line with no social distancing whatsoever,” the snack trader said.
The secretary of the Seshego-Polokwane Taxi Association, David Montsho, welcomed the government’s intervention.
“These disinfectants will go a long way to curb the spread of this virus. All we have to do now is to adhere to the rules and regulations because this disease is here,” Montsho said.
Lerule-Ramakhanya continued the fumigation programme in the Vhembe region on Friday.