No Metrorail commuter services for now, says Mbalula

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Friday outlined the adjustments for transport in the country under Alert Level 4 of the lockdown, which comes into effect today.

“We have always been mindful that transport is not only an enabler of economic activity and access to social amenities, but also a potent instrument, capable of spreading the Covid-19 virus far and wide,” he said.

Here are 8 takeouts from his briefing relating to public transport:

1. All road-based public transport services are permitted to operate from 05h00 until 19h00, with a grace period of 1 hour in the afternoon to complete their trips and drop off passengers. This includes minibus-taxis, buses, metered taxis, e-hailing services, charter and shuttle services.

2. No public transport is allowed on the road between 20h00 and 05h00.

3. No person is allowed to use of public transport who is not wearing a face mask.

4. Buses will be allowed to transport 70% passengers of their licensed loading capacity, with requisite social distancing, wearing of masks by all passenger and other mitigating measures.

5. Loading capacity for metered taxis and e-hailing services remains at 50%.  A 5-seater vehicle is permitted to carry a maximum of 2 passengers and a driver.

6. Loading capacity for minibus-taxis remains at 70% of licensed passengers, with social distancing and other mitigating measures remaining in place. It is unlawful to charge passengers more fees if the taxi is 70% full.

7. PRASA will only resume with a limited service once the National Coronavirus Command Council declares the risk-adjustment to Level 3, with the return of the Pienaarspoort line in Tshwane and the Southern line in Cape Town. There will be no immediate resumption of Metrorail commuter services.

8. Gautrain operations will be gradually re-introduced in all rail-based services, covering 8 of their 9 stations.  There will be no airport service.

Ramaphosa, Tutu bid farewell to ‘patriot’ Denis Goldberg

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have bid farewell to one of South Africa’s most revered freedom fighters, Denis Goldberg, who died on Wednesday evening at his Hout Bay home, aged 87.

Goldberg grew up in Cape Town and studied civil engineering. But, instead of commercial practice, the young communist turned his energy toward engineering the downfall of the apartheid state by sabotaging strategic assets, as part of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

This led to his arrest and conviction at the famed Rivonia Treason Trial, along with Lionel Bernstein, Arthur Goldreich, Bob Hepple, James Kantor, Ahmed Kathrada, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Walter Sisulu and Harold Wolpe.

‘Special patriot’

Goldberg’s death leaves Andrew Mlangeni the sole survivor of the legendary Liliesleaf legion – the farm where six of the trialists were captured by the apartheid state.


On Thursday, Ramaphosa ordered the National Coronavirus Command Council to observe a moment’s silence “in honour of this special patriot”.

“This is a sad moment for our nation and a moment for all of us to appreciate Denis Goldberg’s brave dedication to our Struggle and his lifelong activism in the interest of – and in the physical presence of – poor and vulnerable communities around our country,” Ramaphosa said.

“His first experience of prison was alongside his mother who had been detained for four months, but such experiences failed to intimidate him; instead, it fueled his determination that the liberation movement should use all strategies at its disposal, including armed resistance, to end apartheid.

“His commitment to ethical leadership was unflinching and, even during his advanced age, he formed part of the movement of veterans of the struggle calling for reassertion of moral centre of society. He dedicated his life to achieving the better life we enjoy today and his revolutionary contribution reinforced the non-racial character of our Struggle and of our democratic dispensation,” Ramaphosa said.

‘The nation has lost part of its soul’

From another high office, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation described Goldberg as “a human being of the highest integrity and honour who eschewed personal aggrandisement and consumptiveness”.

“His lifetime contribution to South Africa and its people was second to none. His passing today, aged 87, following a lengthy battle against cancer, conducted with customary courage and grace, feels as if the nation has lost part of its soul.

“Denis Goldberg’s pragmatic human values and natural compassion shone like a candle, attracting and connecting like-minded individuals and institutions wherever he went.”

As the only white trialist to be convicted, he could not serve his sentence with his comrades on Robben Island, which was reserved for black prisoners. He was instead incarcerated in Pretoria for 22 years. But the Rivonia Trial was just one long chapter in his extraordinary life’s work…” the foundation wrote.

‘Illustrious generation’

The African National Congress said Goldberg “belonged to that illustrious generation of freedom fighters who were prepared to sacrifice all and lay down their lives in the struggle for liberation”.

“This is the generation that understood that satisfaction in life comes from serving others. Theirs was a selfless commitment to the liberation of our country. They spared no effort in securing our liberation,” the ANC said in a statement.

“He leaves behind a proud legacy of hard work, selflessness and sacrifice in service of our movement and our country. As the current generation of ANC leaders, members and activists we will pick up his fallen spear. We will continue to honor his legacy.”

“An accomplished revolutionary and freedom fighter par excellence. Hamba Kahle Mkhonto!”

‘We understood the reasons and we agree,’ says parliamentary health committee chair

The chairperson of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has welcomed the continued ban on the sale of tobacco products during level 4 of the lockdown.

Last week, when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the phased approach to exiting lockdown, and that the country would go to level 4 on Friday, he said tobacco products would be allowed to be sold, much to the relief of smokers.

However, when Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the new regulations on Wednesday evening, she said tobacco products would not be sold.

On Thursday, the chairperson of the committee said they agreed with the decision.

“We understood all the reasons mentioned and we agree that smoking is bordering on personal hygiene, and it is a collective responsibility for all of us not to spread the virus from one person to the other,” said Dhlomo, a former MEC for health in KwaZulu-Natal, according to a statement.

“One of the other aspects that we have noted from understanding the physiology of this illness is that it heavily affects the respiratory system, in particular, the lungs. We have observed that a significant number of people that have died of Covid-19 are those that had asthma and other respiratory conditions.”

According to Dhlomo, if you have the Covid-19 infection and tobacco on the same respiratory organ, the lungs are simply overburdened.

“We note that the significant number of people that have died in the world as a result of the pandemic have comorbidities that affect the lungs, asthma, chronic obstructive airwaves diseases and cardiovascular diseases. This comes in as a relief not to allow cigarettes, tobacco and related products at this time,” said Dhlomo.

High court dismisses application to have mosques reopened

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has dismissed an application by a group of Muslim leaders and entities to declare certain parts of the lockdown regulations unconstitutional because it prohibits prayers, specifically the Muslim daily prayers, in places of worship.

The application was brought by Muhammed Bin Hassim Mohomed, Anas Mohammed Chotia and the As-Saadiqeen Islamic Centre.

Judge Brenda Neukircher said in her judgment that every citizen had been called upon to make sacrifices to their fundamental rights entrenched in the Constitution. She said this was done for the “the greater good”, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She added that the government had put together a task team to consult extensively on the safety of citizens in order to flatten the curve and prevent the country’s health system from collapsing.

“I cannot find that the restrictions imposed are either unreasonable or unjustifiable and thus the application must fail,” she said.