Updated regulations for South Africa’s lockdown make special provision for the gradual expansion of ecommerce in the country.
South Africa has introduced a five-level alert system for the COVID-19 crisis. The country is currently at level 5, with the strictest lockdown measures in effect, and is set to move to level 4 from 1 May 2020.
Under the regulations for level 4, published by the Minister of Cooperative Governance, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, retailers may begin selling an expanded list of goods.
This includes personal ICT equipment such as laptops and smartphones, hardware, and specific clothing items. Clothing that may be sold includes winter and children’s clothing, shoes, and bedding.
In addition to the general regulations that apply to the retail sector, the regulations specifically address ecommerce as follows:
Directions may permit the incremental expansion of e-Commerce, taking into account the need to limit the extent of movement on the road, contact between people, law-enforcement challenges and the impact on other businesses.
This follows South Africa’s ecommerce and logistics industry calling on the government to allow online shops to trade freely.
They argue that online shops, combined with contactless delivery, are able to offer a much more hygienic option for people to buy goods than visiting physical stores.
However, the Minister for Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel previously stated that they are hesitant to allow unfettered ecommerce during lockdown due to concerns over fair competition.
“If we open up any one category – let’s say ecommerce- unavoidably there’s enormous pressure to do the same for physical stores, or spaza shops for informal traders, so that there’s a fair competition platform,” Patel stated.
“We need to make sure that we have a system in place that has wide society support.”