MEC Ravi Pillay after Durban walkabout: flouting of Covid-19 rules 'is frightening'

22 December 2020 - 15:27
An unannounced inspection in Durban led to the arrest of a shopkeeper for immigration violations.
An unannounced inspection in Durban led to the arrest of a shopkeeper for immigration violations.
Image: Zimasa Matiwane

The personal-care industry and liquor outlets have been slated for failing to create an environment in which to fight Covid-19, exposing customers and workers alike to the deadly virus.

This follows unannounced visits by economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Ravi Pillay to the Durban city centre on Tuesday.

Pillay described the situation as “quite frightening”, with salons and taverns the biggest culprits.

“I counted about 40 people in a space that is less than 40 square metres. They were not wearing masks, there was no sanitising and the ventilation was poor,” Pillay said, describing one of the worst sights during the inspection.

At the salon there were employees working and customers having haircuts, braiding and getting their nails done.  

Inside a small room was a queue of customers waiting their turn. There were no windows and only the door was open. Masks were worn only when the MEC and Durban metro police entered the premises.

“One of our teams was left behind there to do a thorough inspection and we will take it from there,” Pillay said.

At the second offender, a liquor outlet,  there was no social distancing and patrons' masks rested on their chins while they sipped beer, played snooker and danced. There was only one sanitiser in sight.

“They all put their masks on only after we came in, the ventilation is very poor, there was no social distancing.”

Pillay used the time to educate workers, business owners and customers about the dangers of Covid-19 and the new variant discovered in SA last week.

The inspection group included  police, metro police, compliance officers from the KZN liquor authority and officials from Pillay's department as well as from the departments of labour and home affairs.

Businesses were inspected for compliance with licensing regulations, Covid-19 regulations  and other laws regarding labour and immigration.

A store which employed illegal immigrants and had no business operating licence was shut down.

“The store is owned by a foreigner, it did not have a licence while employing people without papers. It was closed down and there were arrests. This talks to a bigger problem because there were products being sold there that could be putting the health of people at risk,” said Pillay.

The multipurpose store sold everything from cooldrinks and vetkoek to cigarettes, cosmetics, canned food and baby food.

While Pillay said he had no qualms about shutting down illegal businesses the economy remained a priority.

“We are trying to balance the issue of lives vs livelihoods, but it is self-defeating if we let businesses conduct themselves in this kind of way. Of course those who don’t comply must be closed down.

“We are concerned that there have been certain areas where people are carrying on as if Covid-19 is not present. They are not only a danger to themselves but to all those around them,” he said.

The MEC added that the operation was targeting various areas throughout the province.

Liquor authorities have issued notices and in some cases offending business owners paid admission of guilt fines.

Pillay was adamant that unless there are consequences, proper implementation of Covid-19 regulations in these industries would continue being violated, putting lives at risk.

“The liquor authority will be closely watching these businesses and either suspending or not renewing liquor licences because until we have those kinds of consequences there will be no changes and that is what this exercise is for,” he added.

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