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Typical SA! Last-minute queues everywhere


Typical SA! Last-minute queues everywhere

People rush to get to their home provinces and stock up on booze before lockdown

Lwandile Bhengu, Anthony Molyneaux and Qaanitah Hunter
The queue to Liquor City in Northcliff, Johannesburg, spilled into the parking area as shoppers hit stores on Thursday, the day before the lockdown.
BOTTLED-UP EXCITEMENT The queue to Liquor City in Northcliff, Johannesburg, spilled into the parking area as shoppers hit stores on Thursday, the day before the lockdown.
Image: Alon Skuy

Traffic queues, booze queues, shopping queues. SA’s streets were a hive of activity on Thursday as the nation prepared for an unprecedented 21-day lockdown, which may be extended.

With just hours left before the national lockdown, the N3 was flooded with last-minute travellers trying to make their way out of Gauteng before the clock struck midnight.

N3 toll concession spokesperson Con Roux said the road, which connects KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Free State and Mpumalanga, had received an influx of people by lunchtime on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a late exodus from Gauteng towards the Free State, and in particular KwaZulu-Natal, and so a lot of people have left their travel till late and after midnight, there will be a prohibition on travel except in the circumstances stipulated in the guidelines,” said Roux.

Roux said the majority of commuters leaving Gauteng were headed for KwaZulu-Natal.

On Wednesday, minister of transport Fikile Mbalula announced that cross-province travel would be prohibited from Friday, with only those working for essential services being allowed to travel.

Not only were South Africans rushing to get to their home provinces, they were also rushing to buy last-minute stock. An announcement by police minister Bheki Cele that no alcohol would be sold during the lockdown saw South Africans flock to liquor stores on Thursday, with queues snaking into parking areas.

Many liquor stores attempted to order supplies to cater for the demand, but Johnny Telo, manager of a KwikSpar in Cape Town, said the announcement came out too late to get their supplies in order. “We’ve been running off our feet trying to get stocked up, but the supplies are only coming much later,” said Telo. “People are buying like crazy before the lockdown.”

Shopper James de Villiers said he would not recommend the last-minute booze buying to anyone.

“The name of the game was to buy alcohol ahead of the 21-day lockdown,” said De Villiers after purchasing multiple boxes of alcohol at his local store. “It was chaotic in there. I wouldn’t suggest anyone wait for the last minute to do their booze shopping.”

Western Cape premier Alan Winde warned the 21-day lockdown could be extended.

“It [the government] needs each and every one of us to do our bit by staying in our homes,” Winde said. “If we all do this, we will be able to go back to our lives again and start to rebuild our economy. If we do not, and the virus continues to spread, many people will die, and the lockdown may be extended.”

Winde said only a collective effort would save SA from a coronavirus worst-case scenario.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Thursday that the number of infections stood at 927, up by 218 from the day before. Of those cases, 409 were in Gauteng, 229 in the Western Cape and 134 in KZN.

All countries are united. We’ve got to do everything we can to save lives.

President Cyril Ramaphosa – whose office announced he had tested negative for Covid-19 – on Thursday participated in a teleconference of leaders of the G20, chaired by King Salmaan of Saudi Arabia, to discuss Covid-19.

“All countries are united. Weve got to do everything we can to save lives,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the G20 agreed that countries with developed economies should provide stimulus to ailing economies.

“We agreed to have debt relief from the World Bank and IMF so countries can halt interest payments and focus on fighting the coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.

Before the meeting with the G20, Ramaphosa had a virtual meeting of the AU bureau, where the impact of Covid-19 on the continent was discussed.

“We agreed to call on the world, particularly the more developed economies, to come to Africa’s assistance from an economic point of view so that they provide stimulus so we have the resources to support our economies,” he said.

Ramaphosa said they called on developed economies not to ignore Africa in the supply of medical goods.

African countries formed the continents coronavirus fund, which has capital of $17m (about R295.5m). 

What else do you need to know?

  • Rural schools pupils will be left in limbo by the interventions the department of education will implement to “save the year” during the lockdown, most of which will be done through information and communications technology (ICT) platforms. Thats according to basic education minister Angie Motshekga, who said it was “out of our control” that some rural pupils did not have access to television and the internet.
  • Lesotho will implement its own lockdown from Sunday midnight until April 21 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The mountain kingdom is entirely surrounded by SA, and the economies of the two countries are intertwined. The two countries’ governments are in close consultation for a coordinated response to Covid-19. Lesotho prime minister Thomas Thabane said the country’s two million people will remain in their homes for the next three weeks.
  • Thirty companies are being investigated for hiking prices linked to Covid-19. The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is investigating 19 retailers, while the Competition Commission is investigating 11.
  • Evangelist pastor Angus Buchan took to social media to say he had tested positive for Covid-19. “After speaking to my private physician this morning – who has been in contact with the laboratory that holds our results – we received greater clarity on our results. We had indeed tested positive for the coronavirus. However, we are not showing symptoms, and are in good health.”

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