The DA has called for an end to “arbitrary limitations” on what can be sold in stores that are open during the lockdown.
The party’s trade and industry spokesperson Dean Macpherson said the confusion about what were considered “essential items” in grocery stores and pharmacies was unhelpful and should be ended.
In some stores, notices alert shoppers that the sale of some items were not allowed during the lockdown.
In one Pick n Pay store, a notice advises customers: “Attention all customers. Please be advised that the products on this shelf are not available for purchase during the lockdown period. You may purchase the following non-essential products: seeds, bulbs, pool chemicals, batteries, home cleaning consumables, newspapers (exclusive magazines), school and home stationeries, charcoal, firewood, fire-lighters, paraffin and methylated spirits.”
Macpherson said he would write to Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and ask him to recommend gazetting that all stores that were open during the lockdown could sell anything that was normally in their stores.
He said it made no sense that, for instance, that a store at a petrol station was not allowed to sell pies or that a grocery store was 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,” Macpherson said.
He said any item, from hygiene products to electronics, available in a retailer that was allowed to be open should be available for sale to consumers. Once existing stock had been sold out, the items should not be replenished until after the lockdown.
“The bottom line is that any goods found in a store that is already open under current regulations should be allowed for sale.”
However, he said this did not include the sale of liquor, which was prohibited during the lockdown in terms of section 27(2)i of the Disaster Management Act.
Trade and Industry department spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said Patel would respond to Macpherson as soon as he had formally received the letter.
“Convention and protocol dictate that the minister receives and responds to the letter before we can share his response with the media,” Medupe said.