Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has spoken out against the government’s relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown regulations for certain sectors of the economy.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced relaxation of regulations for public transport, increasing the hours of operation and passenger loads.
This followed negotiations with the SA National Taxi Council (SANTACO), which had resisted the much stricter regulations that had been imposed last week.
‘Lockdown will collapse’
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Malema warned the state against negotiating with “non-essential” sectors of the economy.
He wrote, “If the state is not going to be firm and not negotiate with any non-essential sector of the economy for relaxation of lockdown regulations, this lockdown will collapse, barbarism will emerge and the deadly coronavirus will spread like wildfire: millions will die. Stop it cowards!”
The EFF also issued a statement on Thursday saying no institution should be “more powerful than the state.”
“It cannot be that the government bows to the pressure of anyone merely because such people are demanding that the state relax regulations so that they can continue to make profit during a dangerous health disaster,” the party said.
Taxi industry relaxations
Regulations gazetted last week imposed a maximum loading capacity of 50% on public transport to allow for transportation of essential workers.
The regulations also indicated that the public transport sector could only operate during 5-9am and 4-8pm.
However, at a press briefing on Wednesday, Mbalula relaxed the operating hours to 5-10am and 4-9pm.
He also announced that taxis could have 100% load capacity as long as all passengers wore protective face masks.
Mbalula however rescinded the 100% load capacity regulation late on Wednesday following further consultations.
In a statement, he said, “After our announcement of catering for 100%, there was a public outcry about the impact of such an arrangement on the health safety of public transport users.
“We took these issues seriously and engaged with key stakeholders, resulting in a consensus of maximising loading capacity to 70%.”