DA calls for unbanning of all ‘non-essential’ goods in retail stores that are currently trading

Please click here for a soundbite by Dean Macpherson MP, the DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for an end to arbitrary limitations on what can be sold in stores that are open during the lockdown. The confusion around what are considered “essential items” in grocery stores, pharmacies and the like, 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.

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 new born babies not being able to buy clothes for their babies.

Across South Africa, law enforcement officials are often being allowed sole discretion to interpret these regulations as they see fit which is having huge consequences for many people, from urban to rural settings.

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.

This does not include the sale of liquor which is prohibited during this time in terms of Section 27,(2)i of the Disaster Management Act of 2002. The DA supports this regulations as we believe alcohol sales could encourage people to make irresponsible decisions or to congregate in social groups, both if which we want to avoid during the lockdown.

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.

It appears on the face of it that there is no obstacle in law to allowing citizens the free choice to buy whatever they may find in store.

These arbitrary restrictions are also incredibly damaging for big retailers to spaza shops who are being forced to sit on stock they can not sell in an already challenging economic time.

Nine days into South Africa’s lockdown, it is time that we start thinking clearly and rationally about the plethora of regulations that our people are subject to and that we start simplifying them in the best interest of South Africans and our economy.