Makhanda residents on Wednesday queued outside grocery stores and business owners scrambled to find out what will and won’t be permitted under the national lockdown that starts just before midnight Thursday 26 March. While some residents were upbeat, looking forward to family time and a chance to do DIY projects at home, many were anxious about putting food on the table and paying the rent, after losing three weeks’ income.
Minister of Co-operative Governance Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma declared a national state of disaster, gazetted on 15 March. The following night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the early closure of schools and tertiary institutions along with other measures to mitigate and slow the spread of the Coronavirus Covid-19. Just over a week later, the President announced more drastic measures under a national lockdown restricting citizens to their homes. On Wednesday 25 March, Dlamini-Zuma signed off the final regulations for the 21-day lockdown in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
Owners of small businesses in Makhanda were anxious about making ends meet, but understood the importance of the measure. Much of their confusion about the exact application of the lockdown was resolved by the final regulations issued later on Wednesday.
“I’m feeling bad about the lockdown – but not that bad because it’s also helping us,” said Fatima Rahman, whose family owns Abdul’s Hardware and Cellular in Chapel Street. “It’s for our health.
“When we close the shop, there’s no money for rent or anything. It’s going to be hard.”
Tyson Dyakala of Tyson Tyres in Raglan Road was still seeking clarity on Wednesday.
“I have a lot of customers – police, the municipality – I think they will still need my services.”
He’d been to both to confirm whether he would be allowed to keep his workshop open for emergency repairs. While Dyakala received verbal confirmation he would be able to carry out repairs, he’d had nothing in writing and that worried him.
As part of the final regulations, entities must apply to be classified as an essential service.
At Tyremart, Robert van der Merwe said “We’re all in the same boat, we’re pretty unsure. But we are applying to be approved as essential services because we service the ambulances, the farmers who bring in food supplies, the traffic department.
“If we’re successful in our application it will mean we can operate under strict conditions… but at least we will be able to keep the farmers and the ambulances up and running.”
At the long distance taxi rank, BATA chairperson Dole Kondile said they were still waiting for direction from their national body, Santaco.
“We don’t have a plan,” Kondile said on Wednesday before the final regulations were signed off by the Minister. “We will just follow orders.
“But pensioners need their money, people need to buy food, so I don’t know.”
Babalwa Veveza runs Babe’s Kitchen at the rank.
“The lockdown will affect us a lot because some of us depend on our small businesses,” said Veveza. “Who’s going to pay our rent and who’s going to give us food for these 21 days?” she asked.
Johnny and Sina Joe, from Vergenoeg, had been among more than 100 people queuing outside the main entrance to Shoprite. Grocott’s Mail spoke to them as they, like others, came out of the store, their trolley loaded with mostly dry rations that had cost them R1500.
A long-life milk 10-pack, 5kg sugar, pocket of potatoes, 10-litres oil, 30 toilet rolls, 5kg chicken, 10kg flour, 10kg rice and 12kg mielie meal were what they hoped would keep them out of the shops for a long time.
“Ons weet nie wat gaan aan nie, daarom koop ons kos so,” said Sina.
Ntombekhaya Jodwana from Fingo Village said uncertainty about how things were going to work had led her to join the long queue outside Shoprite on Wednesday.
Akhona Nontyi and Sinovuyo Zondani took a taxi from Joza to stock up their grocery cupboards.
“It’s not panic buying, Nontyi said. We’re just doing our normal shopping.”
Zondani (right) had earlier drawn curious stares by wearing a white full face mask in place of a protective one.
In his address on Tuesday, the President emphasised that the public will be able to continue buying goods during the shutdown.
“Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items,” Ramaphosa said.
The final lockdown regulations confirm much of what the President said, but give more detail.
Shops selling essential goods are allowed to remain open, as long as they sell only those essential goods. They have to maintain strict health standards including allowing only a limited number of people inside the shop at a time and enforcing distance between them. All other places not involved in providing essential goods and services must remain closed to everyone during lockdown.
Forms have been issued for heads of institutions and CEOs to apply for certain staff to perform essential services.
Taxis, buses and private vehicles will be allowed to operate to provide essential services, obtain essential goods, seek medical attention, funeral services and receive grant payments “provided that no more than 50% of the licenced capacity of the vehicle… is exceeded and all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the limitation of exposure to persons with Covid-19 are adhered to.”
Allowed operating hours for taxis are 5am to 9am and 4pm to 8pm.
The Grahamstown Residents Association this week asked for feedback on a #Shop4Ten system, whereby one or two people shop for 10 and buy 10 taxi seats.
“This way a taxi can earn the cost of 20 seats with 2 to 4 passengers,” the GRA saidin a post on their Facebook page. “Social distancing achieved in the taxi and shops, drivers not at as much risk of catching the virus. It would need buy in from community and taxis to work.”
HERE ARE THE FINAL LOCKDOWN REGULATIONS:
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