Shop, drink, pray

Gro­cery shelves and liquor stores empty as peo­ple pre­pare to lock down


MIL­LIONS of South Africans shopped, drank or prayed their last day of free­dom away yes­ter­day be­fore the na­tional lock­down took ef­fect at mid­night.

Roads were grid­locked, shop­ping cen­tres were thronged with fran­tic shop­pers and liquor stores were emp­tied through the day, be­fore the coun­try set­tled down to na­tional prayer called by re­li­gious lead­ers and Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa as he an­nounced that the num­ber of peo­ple in­fected with Covid-19 had shot to over 900.

Ramaphosa, who was giv­ing fi­nal or­ders to po­lice who will en­force lock­down reg­u­la­tions con­fin­ing cit­i­zens to their homes for 21 days, urged them to show com­pas­sion as cit­i­zens were al­ready in a state of panic. “Our peo­ple are ter­ri­fied. They fear they will lose their jobs, that they won’t have enough food, that they will be­come sick, that they will be­come bored in their homes.

“You are ex­pected as po­lice of­fi­cers of South Africa to have com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing to be able to give help and as­sis­tance. You will not do any­thing that will vi­o­late the rights of South Africans.

“You were not only trained to fight crime, you were also trained to save lives,” he said.

Ramaphosa urged cit­i­zens to obey lock­down rules and avoid do­ing any­thing that would cause po­lice to take steps against them.

“There will be those that take chances and cut cor­ners, de­lib­er­ately chal­leng­ing the state. This is not the time to play with fire and the peo­ple of South Africa must fol­low the rules ... we are deadly se­ri­ous about sav­ing lives,” he said.

In Mar­itzburg, crowds flock­ing to the Mills Su­pers­par in Hay­fields yes­ter­day morn­ing nearly brought traf­fic to a stand­still in and around the area. Streams of cars were stuck try­ing to get in and out of the park­ing lot.

Mo­torists in the CBD also sat in grid­locked traf­fic. Although cus­tomer traf­fic at the Cas­cade Cen­tre’s Woolworths was man­age­able, the store man­ager told The Wit­ness they had seen an in­crease in cus­tomers from Tuesday.

She said some shelves in the store were reg­u­larly emp­tied and they had to be re­plen­ished.

While some shops tried to en­force so­cial dis­tanc­ing, most of the cus­tomers did not comply and still stood close to each other in queues.

Many peo­ple also swarmed the city cen­tre Free­dom Square yes­ter­day af­ter­noon “to cel­e­brate their last day of free­dom be­fore the lock­down”.

A large group of over 100 young­sters drink­ing told The Wit­ness they had stocked up on huge quan­ti­ties of al­co­hol for the 21-day lock­down. “It’s tor­ture that the liquor stores are go­ing to be closed. The govern­ment should have been more le­nient,” said one of them.

Many stores at Brook­side Mall, such as Clicks, Check­ers and Check­ers Liquor, lim­ited the num­ber of peo­ple al­lowed to en­ter the stores at a time. Peo­ple queued wait­ing for their chance to go in.

A man­ager at the Tops at Jonathan’s Spar said the store was busier than nor­mal, but there was no panic buy­ing. “It’s been a busy day. There is no panic buy­ing, but the store is busier than nor­mal. Some shelves are bare be­cause peo­ple were stock­ing up enough to last them for 21 days. Most of the cus­tomers said they didn’t want to leave home dur­ing this pe­riod.” A shopper, who asked not to be named, said she was buy­ing wine. “I bought a few bot­tles of wine. I’ll do my gro­ceries [dur­ing] the lock­down be­cause we will be al­lowed to go out to su­per­mar­kets.”

Com­ment­ing on The Wit­ness Facebook page, Trevor Maartens said: “I can’t un­der­stand the panic buy­ing be­cause we were promised there would be enough stocks to last the lock­down.

“I do how­ever find it un­ac­cept­able that al­ready there are no stocks of chronic medicines, items which can­not be ‘panic bought’ but which are dis­pensed with a med­i­cal script.”

Leon Pil­lay said: “Peo­ple, stop bulk buy­ing. Think about those that can’t af­ford it, Bluff Meat Sup­plies fridges are empty. There are no cold meats.

“Think about those that have not been paid for months, think about those that have very lit­tle who live from day to day, hand to mouth.” • nokuthula.khanyile@me­

“There will be those that take chances and cut cor­ners, de­lib­er­ately chal­leng­ing the state. This is not the time to play with fire and the peo­ple of South Africa must fol­low the rules ... we are deadly se­ri­ous about sav­ing lives.

A group of young friends gath­ered at the Free­dom Square yes­ter­day to ‘en­joy their last beer’ ahead of the mid­night lock­down.


Do­ing some last-minute shop­ping at Mills Su­pers­par yes­ter­day were Ja­son and Vi­vian Maluleke.

FROM LEFT: Cebo Ng­cobo, Mbuso Mwe­lase, Michael Oliphant and Thulani Zondi mak­ing sure that they have enough booze for the lock­down.

ABOVE: En­joy­ing a ca­sual drink at a car­wash in the CBD be­fore the 21-day lock­down yes­ter­day were (from front) Lindo Mkhize, Sthem­biso Zimu and Sandile Ndlela.

LEFT: Traf­fic came to a stand­still in dif­fer­ent parts of the city yes­ter­day.

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