We’d rather walk, say Limpopo commuters as alarming rise in Covid-19 cases hit Polokwane taxi ranks

08 January 2021 - 07:11
By Mashudu Sadike
Commuters are worried about catching Covid-19 at busy and crowded taxi ranks where people often do not wear masks or keep their distance.
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24/Lulama Zenzile Commuters are worried about catching Covid-19 at busy and crowded taxi ranks where people often do not wear masks or keep their distance.

The Polokwane taxi rank in Limpopo has seen an alarming rise in Covid-19 related deaths and positive cases, with four taxi owners succumbing to the virus and eight drivers testing positive in the past week alone.

The city’s taxi tycoon, Charles Ramogale, was the latest coronavirus victim to be buried on Monday, with owners Madiseng Langa and Lebogang Machaka having been buried at the weekend. Another taxi boss, David Makweya, was buried on Thursday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a driver who tested positive for Covid-19, said that while he had just received his test results, he knew that seven of his colleagues had also tested positive. The driver plies the Polokwane City to Seshego township route daily.

Seshego Polokwane Taxi Association (SPTA) spokesperson Mushita Lekganyane confirmed  the deaths, and that there had been four positive cases in his jurisdiction.

“We have had four deaths of our owners in one week and four drivers that have tested positive also in the past week. We have asked those that have tested positive to stay home and recover,” Lekganyane said.

Noko Mokwatedi, spokesperson for the Moletjie Taxi Association, which shares the same hub with the SPTA, was concerned that despite the deaths and the positive tests, taxis continue to ferry passengers without having been disinfected.

She complained that the last time the department disinfected the taxis was during the first wave of infections in April last year.

“Some passengers refuse to comply by not wearing masks in the taxi. We are asking the government to intervene,” Mokwatedi said.

The SPTA and MTA, together with the Mangkweng Taxi Association, transport about 18,000 people a day.

Limpopo health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba, said it was the responsibility of the associations to see to it that passengers wear masks and sanitise their hands.

“It’s not the department’s job to sanitise or disinfect taxis. The taxi industry is a private sector and owners and associations should see to it that their people comply,” Ramathuba said.

When asked if the department would start tracing people who were in contact with those two tested positive, Ramathuba said that they would lend necessary support if needed.

“Our surveillance teams are on the ground and will alert us if there is a need to support the taxi industry,” she said.

But in recent days, passengers have become uneasy about using taxis.

Lethabo Mathivha works as a petrol attendant at a Shell garage on Thabo Mbeki Street. She travels 30km from Moletjie to Polokwane and back every day. She says that if she had any other option other than a taxi, she would grab it.

“I wear two masks and gloves in case I have to pass money around in the taxi. If I had my own car I would have abandoned the taxi a long time ago.”

Others have opted to walk to work since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Phuthi Senyatso and Sello Kgasago have chosen to walk about 13km from Seshego to Polokwane and back every day.

“People are dropping like flies because they refuse to wear masks, so we would rather walk to work,” Senyatso said.

As of Thursday night, Limpopo had 636 confirmed deaths from Covid-19, 7,592 active cases and 22,612 recorded recoveries. In total, it accounts for 30,840 of the country’s total infections since the outbreak of the coronavirus.