JOHANNESBURG- Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has apologised after he posted on his twitter account earlier this week that he had performed a citizen’s arrest on a man lugging a trolley of cow heads.
The tweet sparked criticism that Mashaba, a self-made businessman, was now bent on repressing fellow blacks struggling to make ends meet in a country with an unemployment rate of more than 27 percent.
At the time Mashaba claimed that the meat was exposed in transit and posed a potential health risk to those residents who would have consumed it.
“I apologise most sincerely to our residents for my comments relating to the meat also presenting a potential risk of an ebola outbreak. I also apologise for what has appeared to be insensitivity towards the plight of informal traders in our City, attempting to earn a living”, said Mashaba in a statement.
Mashaba said that he can now appreciate how his comment offended people with its insensitivity.
The mayor further stated that it was never his intention for the comments to be construed as an attack on any person or group – informal traders or foreign residents.
In the face of social media backlash over his comments, Mashaba has since tweeted that he fully supported informal traders in the city “as much as I support the health of residents”.
“Our Health Inspectors will be working with street vendors in the inner city to support them to meet our environmental health codes while working to earn a living,” he wrote.
Mashaba has previously been criticised over his vocal stance against mostly African illegal immigrants in the city, although supporters have applauded him.
“I am not above making a mistake and, when I err, I am willing to humble myself and apologise unreservedly to our residents. I have asked that our teams of Health Inspectors are on the ground in the inner city to work with informal and formal traders to understand the safety standards of the City and why they are so important”.
“Our Health Inspectors will be working with street vendors in the inner city to support them to meet our environmental health codes while working to earn a living,” he said.
However, Mashaba said he remains resolute and unapologetic on his commitment and focus on the enforcement of by-laws in the City and the need to proactively protect the wellbeing of the residents.
“As a City we have to be proactive in preventing breakouts of disease, knowing how the poorest in our City are the most vulnerable in this regard. Access to quality healthcare is not a right enjoyed by all in our City, and many residents are susceptible. Our healthcare facilities throughout the City are stretched to the limits, even with our extended hours of operation at various clinics”.
“To address this the multi-party government has moved towards procuring mobile clinics. For our City to succeed, no law or by-law can be deemed too minor to be respected because we have to get the basics right”.
According to Mashaba, informal traders play a crucial role within the South African economy and allow many of the poorest residents with access to a livelihood in an economic environment where jobs are scarce.
“Within the City of Johannesburg, just over 900 000 people are unemployed. If we are to address this unemployment, we must create an environment which supports small entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. This includes supporting efforts to assist those residents within the informal trading sector, who form a critical component of our plans.”
The mayor said that the City is committed to working with the informal sector to create jobs and improve the lives of our residents.
In conclusion, Mashaba further said: “For the insensitivity of my remarks about Ebola, I apologise unreservedly to those who my remarks have offended. For my dedication to safeguarding the health of our residents and the rule of law in our City, I can never apologise because this was the change demanded by our residents in 2016.”