#Lockdown: Further clarification for retailers
by Louise Burgers. In a marathon media conference on March 24, Government provided business and society with more detail on the protection of the food supply chain and conditions under which retailers will remain open under #lockdown.Tuesday, 24 Mar 2020
by Louise Burgers. Government has appealed for calm and tolerance from all South Africans to deal with this “unprecedented” event, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in a marathon media conference, which provided business and society with in depth detail on the emergency measures put in place during the 21-day lockdown which starts at midnight on March 26.
Government held the three-hour media conference today 10am-1pm, March 24, 2020, in Pretoria, with an impressive line-up of relevant Ministers to give further clarity on the emergency #lockdown measures announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night, March 23, 2020. This was followed at 2pm by Ministers from the social clusters as to implementation.
As Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel said this morning: “It is a learning experience for everybody. We are in something that societies don’t prepare for. This is not even a once a generation type of event. This is an event that is unprecedented. Therefore… particularly the speed at which we need to move is unusual. We appeal right across our society for tolerance in working together. We are going to have to care for each other during this period and a critical part of this is just tolerance. Our job is now, all of us, to ensure the generosity of spirit is there to get us through this period.”
These are the key takeouts:
- Reduced demand for electricity is likely as business shuts down which should assist Eskom in keeping the lights on and reducing incidents of loadshedding.
- Wholesalers and retailers were urged not to engage in price hiking. Everyone has an important role to play in food security currently. Relief was also announced for farmers who have Land Bank loans.
- The public were urged not to engage in panic buying and that Government was doing everything to keep the food supply chains open and support farmers.
- The Consumer and Competition Commissions met yesterday and are now investigating 11 firms for high prices and abusing the current crisis. Prosecutions will follow and fines and penalties of R1 million or up to 10% of company turnover or one year in jail will apply. Ordinary consumers reported the firms in question. A tollfree hotline has now been set up: 0800014880 for complaints in this regard.
- Banks will support small business and consumers in distress by working together on a coordinated plan for payment holidays for businesses and individuals who have experienced loss of income, including setting limits on asset repossessions; as well as the extension of credit lines to negate financial stress.
- Government is gazetting these extraordinary measures for the banking sector to collaborate on the sharing of information and resources to come up with payment systems to aid consumers and business; as well as ensure the availability of bank notes at ATMs and branches so that the banking system remains intact.
- Essential services include companies essential to the production of FMCG goods and medical supplies and which will remain open during the lockdown period. This includes grocery stores, supermarkets and spaza shops, although consumers are asked to limit trips. Government has assured the public that all essential items, like food and beverages, personal products, hygiene products, cleaning goods and medicines and medical products will remain available.
- All businesses essential for the production of these items will be available during the lockdown and remain open and staffed to ensure the production and services continue uninterrupted.
- All businesses that remain open and staffed will be required to implement the necessary hygiene protocols to protect their workers.
- Consumer facing businesses like grocery stores will especially be asked to educate staff on protocols and social distancing for customers.
- Government has asked companies to do what they can to ensure that employees who can work remotely, do so, to keep the economy going.
- Government has taken steps and is working with major grocery retailers to ensure that grocery shelves remain well stocked and the supply chain intact, including the smooth operation of the whole of the food production eco-system, from farm, to production, to delivery to the supermarket. Problems arise when people panic buy, resulting in temporary shortages.
- Shopping mall owners will also be tasked with looking at creating rental payment holidays for tenants, including rental discounts in order to limit evictions, particularly among retail businesses that must close, such as those selling clothing, homewares, and restaurants.
- Government will also endeavour to keep trade with South Africa’s neighbours open. Controls on the movement of people across South Africa’s borders will not affect trade on goods
- Government is also working with retailers closely to ensure that SASSA grants can be accessed over the extended time period Government has announced.
- Hygiene and social distancing will be enforced at all retailers.
The Government Gazette of Wednesday will contain an updated list of all products and essential services. Keep an eye on the Government Gazette to follow daily updates ahead of the #lockdown and as and when required during the lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic global crisis. As various Ministers were quick to point out – these are completely disruptive times for everyone, including global governments, and not every consequence is immediately obvious. This is a new world order for everyone.
Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.
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