Taxi association allegedly demanded R10k from healthcare workers during Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Umlazi
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Durban – Workers from the Centre for HIV-Aids Prevention Studies were left traumatised in uMlazi after the local taxi associations allegedly blocked them from accessing the area during a vaccination rollout campaign.
The centre, which works with the Solidarity Fund and the Department of Health, had deployed teams in the eThekwini District this week to administer vaccines as part of the Covid-19 vaccine drive.
According to the centre, on Tuesday, two of their teams were approached by 40 taxi association members in uMlazi, who told them that they needed the association’s permission to be in the area and also demanded R10 000 from them.
The team were meant to administer vaccines in uMlazi’s G and M sections.
Speaking to the Mercury yesterday, the centre’s chief executive Jacqueline Pienaar said that one of the teams had just collected vaccines at the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital when they noticed a vehicle following them.
Pienaar said that when they arrived in uMlazi with their rental Avanza vehicle, the occupants in the vehicle that had been following them’, ordered them to pull over, but they refused and drove to the uMlazi G police station.
“They got out of the car and called the police, while the group following them also got out of their car. They told our team that they are from the taxi association and proceeded to question my team about what they were doing in the area. After they explained what they were doing, they were told that they were not allowed to function in the area without their permission,” explained Pienaar.
Pienaar said that the taxi association also said that the centre should be transporting their staff using the local taxis, not in privately rented vehicles.
“They ordered the team to pay R10 000, stating that they came to the area without their permission.”
Pienaar said another team was also held to ransom by other taxi association members in M section in the township. The taxi association members also demanded R10 000 in that incident, Pienaar said.
The teams were allowed to leave but were warned not to return unless they paid the money.
She said that the incidents had left the teams traumatised and the centre was looking for safer sites to deploy them to.
“We will not be providing vaccine accessibility to the uMlazi area due to threats from the taxi people. We have contacted the provincial health department and we advised that we are pulling out our team because they are unsafe.
“This also hampers the vaccination rollout as we didn’t vaccinate on Tuesday, Wednesday and also today (Thursday),” she stated.
Approached for comment, the provincial and eThekwini regional leadership of South African National Taxi Council said that they were not aware of the incidents, and declined to comment.
The provincial health department confirmed that the matter had reached their attention.
KZN Department of Health spokesperson, Ntokozo Maphisa said that any actions that seek to disrupt the Covid-19 vaccination programme was extremely concerning.
He said the matter was reported to the district management; the vaccination coordinating Team, as well as to the eThekwini Transport Authority manager.
He said that the municipal transport authority had made a commitment to engage with all relevant stakeholders regarding this matter.
“Both the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala and the MEC for Health, Nomagugu Simelane have repeatedly made a call to the public to help us accelerate the programme by coming out in numbers to get vaccinated, as this is the only weapon that we currently have against this deadly virus,” said Maphisa.
The province has thus far vaccinated more than 2,3 million people and was currently vaccinating an average of 30 000 people per day.
However, Maphisa said that the province was aiming to double the daily average to 60 000 in order to reach the target of 7,2 million by the end of March next year.