Velenkosini Hlabisa. Picture: IFP
Velenkosini Hlabisa. Picture: IFP

On Friday, the IFP criticised the government for relaxing regulations aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19, saying its mixed messages have caused panic and anxiety in SA.

The criticism comes after co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma threw informal food traders a lifeline on Thursday night, saying they would be allowed to trade again, provided they obtain a permit from their local municipality.

On Wednesday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula moved to relax the strict regulations in the public-transport sector during the coronavirus lockdown, allowing minibus taxis to carry full passenger loads if passengers are wearing masks.

He also announced changes to operating times, with minibus taxis now permitted to operate from 5am until 10am (previously 9am), and from 4pm to 9pm (previously 8pm). However, he backtracked on Thursday morning, saying transport vehicles must reduce the number of maximum passengers to 70% of the licensed capacity.

Mbalula announced the amendments following recent meetings with the national leadership of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), SA’s largest taxi organisation, and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA), on the socio-economic effect Covid-19 is having on the industry that transports 16.5-million passengers a day.

Adding to the confusion, on Thursday the government clashed with the DA-led Western Cape provincial administration after the latter said it had obtained a legal opinion that tobacco products could be purchased within a “certain framework”. Cabinet ministers rubbished the opinion saying the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products were banned nationally.

“The IFP expresses grave displeasure at the government’s reported changes to the lockdown regulations just seven days in,” said IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa on Friday.

He called on the government to not “kowtow to industries for monetary gain when lives are placed at greater risk and with very little information on how the lockdown is slowing down the transmission of Covid-19”.

“The recent announcements by the ministers — following the National Command Council and the government’s published, amended regulations about the state of disaster — are causing mass confusion across the country.”​

Decisive action means that “regulations cannot be bent and modeled according to the needs of industries”, said Hlabisa, warning that if the government changes lockdown regulations weekly, “we run the risk of merely fighting compliance to the regulations and buy-in from South Africans”.  

“We support the government in taking firm action but we call on the ministers within the National Command Council to stick to the regulations as gazetted and to refrain from making frivolous changes.”

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation that the government would roll out a large-scale screening, testing, tracing and medical management programme to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. He said about 10,000 field workers will be visiting homes in villages, towns and cities to screen residents for Covid-19 symptoms.

Covid-19 has infected more than 1,400 people in the country and resulted in five deaths so far.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za