DA calls on Minister Patel to justify to Parliament e-commerce restrictions

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson for Trade, Industry and Competition, Duma Nkosi to request that we invite Minister Ebrahim Patel to justify the restrictions around e-commerce during the level 4 risk-adjusted approach.

During the hard lockdown, we were told by the Minister that e-commerce could not be allowed because it would be “unfair” to spaza shops as they were closed. This turned out not to be true.

To date, no logical rationale has been provided to South Africans and businesses by the Minister. Instead, we were told by the Minister during a parliamentary committee meeting on Friday that “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”.

It is critical that Minster Patel takes South Africa into his confidence and details what these “directions” are and when they will be issued.

The continued rejection of unfettered e-commerce is simply unsustainable and without reason. Further to this, South Africa is a real outlier when compared to other countries that are relying on e-commerce to get goods to consumers in a safe way to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

It is time that we start walking the talk when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution and embrace e-commerce. Parliament has made much of this new revolution and now is a perfect opportunity to use its oversight powers to compel the Minister to justify his views and demand a way forward.