The failure by the management of the Tshwane Fresh Produce Market to implement meaningful and effective protocols to manage the threat posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been cited as the key reason for the market having to suddenly close from 24 to 26 June.
This was according to Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of the RSA Group, which included a market agents division that operated at the market. He said that lost sales value for farmers alone at the country’s second largest fresh produce market would amount to around R28 million during the three days of the shutdown.
Oosthuizen cited the case of COVID-19 that had been reported and resultant temporary shutdown as only the latest in a litany of shortcomings and failures by the market’s management to run the market optimally.
“The only communication that we have received about the market having to be closed down for disinfection was an unsigned notice issued on a letterhead of the City of Tshwane’s group human capital management. We have not heard a thing from the market’s management. Yet, 5% of Tshwane Market’s R3,6 billion-a-year sales goes to the market management and the City of Tshwane,” Oosthuizen told Farmer’s Weekly.
He added that despite this R180 million annual income, the market’s management frequently told market-users that there was insufficient money to repair or upgrade the market’s infrastructure, or for sufficient resources to protect market users against COVID-19.
“We market agents have had to take it on ourselves to disinfect the trading floor once a week. The way that market’s management operates is shocking,” Oosthuizen added.
The unsigned notice, which Farmer’s Weekly saw, said the market has been temporarily closed for disinfection “due to a reported positive COVID-19 case”.
The market’s CEO, Tshifhiwa Madima, disputed Oosthuizen’s view that the market’s management was poor and did not take users’ needs and concerns seriously.
“We admit that there are challenges with capacity and budget allocation in market operations, and that we have had to request agencies to come onboard to help with aspects of managing against COVID-19. However, we take responsibility for many aspects of this management, and the market is in compliance with the standard operating procedures developed by the City of Tshwane with regards to COVID-19,” he said.
Madima explained that in terms of these standard operating procedures, the relevant health and safety officials of the market and of the City of Tshwane had taken the decision to temporarily close the market for sanitation and deep-cleaning.
People that could have been in contact with the COVID-19-infected person were being traced for an appropriate response.
He also said that the market’s management had been engaging and working with various agencies to jointly develop strategies to better mitigate the threat that COVID-19 posed.
“So, I don’t really agree with the view that we are abdicating our responsibilities. We are doing our best to have the market open again on 27 June. We hope that we will meet the City of Tshwane’s requirements for the permits to have the market reopened,” he said.