The DA has called on the South African government to end “arbitrary limitations” on what South Africans can buy during the national lockdown.
Dean Macpherson, DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, said the confusion around what is an “essential item” in stores and pharmacies “is unhelpful and should be ended”.
“I will write to Minister Ebrahim Patel and request him to recommend for gazetting that all stores that are open during the lockdown to be able to sell anything that is normally in their stores,” said Macpherson.
“It is illogical and makes no sense for instance that a store at a petrol station is not allowed to sell pies or that a grocery store is not allowed to sell prepared, warm food.”
“We have seen even more ridiculous examples of this in this week of lockdown, such as retail stores closing their magazines and snacks shelves and mothers of newborn babies not being able to buy clothes for their babies.”
Law enforcement and alcohol
Macpherson said another issue is that law enforcement officials are “often being allowed sole discretion to interpret these regulations”.
“Any item, from hygiene products to electronics, found in a retailer that is allowed to be open should be available for sale to consumers. Once existing stock is sold out, then these items won’t be replenished until after the lockdown.”
“The bottom line is that any good found in a store, that is already open under current regulations, should be allowed for sale.”
Macpherson said this should not include the sale of alcohol, but cigarettes should be available for sale.
“The DA supports these regulations as we believe alcohol sales could encourage people to make irresponsible decisions or to congregate in social groups.”
“We do not believe the same rationale can be applied to cigarettes and the DA therefore includes cigarettes in our call for all goods currently in stores, open to the public, to be for sale.”
He added that the current restrictions are damaging for retailers and spaza shops who are being forced to sit on stock they cannot sell.