The City of Cape Town has noted the uncertainty over the National Government’s lockdown regulations and subsequent amendments published by the Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), specifically pertaining to what constitutes essential goods and services. The City has therefore drafted simplified guidelines for clarity.
The Essential Guide for SMMEs during lockdown, accessible here, provides critical information for business including where to find the regulations applicable to COVID-19, a clear explanation of what constitutes essential goods and services, how and where businesses can apply to operate as an essential service, as well as all the information related to government funding available to SMMEs.
Additional guidelines have also been drafted by the City and the Western Cape Government in an attempt to provide clarity to security forces as to which retailers can stay open during the lockdown, what goods can be sold and the conditions these establishments need to abide by in order to stay open. These guidelines received concurrence from SAPS Western Cape on 31 March 2020.
We agree that there is a measure of ambiguity in the current regulations particularly when it comes to definitions such as what constitutes a grocery store and a spaza shop. The guidelines will therefore attempt to provide its own measure of clarity, which will allow for all levels of security forces to implement the lockdown regulations in a uniform manner, as opposed to the current situation, which is leading to uncertainty among both the business community as well as the different security forces.
The guidelines are not meant to be a definitive legal document, but rather a guide which can help ensure a uniform approach to enforcing the regulations. It must also be emphasised that this document only concerns itself with retail stores that are open to the public and not businesses that are performing other functions.
It is clear from regulation 11A that essential goods include any food product, animal food, cleaning and hygiene products and medical products. This is therefore what stores should be limiting their product range to as per National Government’s regulations.
In terms of which stores are able to be open during the lockdown, it is important to note that, in addition to grocery stores, including spaza shops, the regulation also states that those producing and selling goods listed in Category A, which are essential goods, must be regarded as an essential service. Therefore, it stands to reason that in addition to grocery stores and spaza shops, other shops are also entitled to be open if they are selling essential goods. However, these are the ONLY goods that should be sold.
It is worth noting that neither cell phone shops nor money lending businesses are allowed to operate during the lockdown.
The definition of a grocery store also needs to be taken into account but unfortunately the guidelines are silent on this definition. As agreed with SAPS WC, grocery stores include large retail chains as well as smaller corner grocery stores, fruit and veg shops, butchers and convenience stores at filling stations.
The list of stores that therefore are permitted to remain open, according to the guidelines and which have been confirmed by SAPS WC, are:
- Grocery stores (including large retail chains as well as smaller food shops, fruit and veg shops, butchers and convenience stores at filling stations)
- Spaza Shops
- Pet stores (only selling animal food)
- Health food stores. Where these shops sell food, hygiene products and/or cleaning products, they are permitted to be open. If open, these stores may sell ONLY essential goods
In addition to the above, businesses can deliver essential goods to people’s homes, but they can’t deliver hot meals or any non-essential goods to people’s homes.
One of the biggest challenges we face currently is misinformation and a lack of clarity. That is why the City of Cape Town’s Department of Enterprise and Investment has set up an information portal on the Invest Cape Town website to assist business and industry during the Coronavirus crisis.
The portal features the latest news, press releases, research and downloadable resources for business sourced from our strategic business partners as well as the provincial and national government and is linked to Wesgro, Cape Town Tourism and other useful sites during this period. I encourage residents, business owners and industry to make use of this portal, which can be accessed on https://www.investcapetown.com.
My job as the Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities is to use all levers at my disposal, to work with our business partners as well as provincial and national government to assist businesses to get through the crisis we now face.