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Retail outlets reprimanded for unlawful sale of takeaways

Major retail outlets have been slammed for selling cooked food during the lockdown.
Major retail outlets have been slammed for selling cooked food during the lockdown.

The state has lashed out at major retail outlets for allegedly breaking lockdown regulations by the selling cooked food, even calling for police deal the businesses.

This comes after research by the SowetanLIVE revealed that stores that fall under major retail outlets like Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Shoprite Group and Spar were selling cooked food in Gauteng.

This means consumers have been allowed to purchase pies, grilled and fried chicken, fish and chips, pap, rice, stew and salads, at a time when their competitors like Nandos, KFC, Chicken Licken, shisa nyamas, and kota sellers have been closed for business.

The department of cooperative governance, which is the custodian of lockdown regulations, pleaded ignorance on the matter and thanked SowetanLIVE for bringing it to their attention.

The department accused the major retailers of indulging in anti-competitive behaviour.

"The retailers are not allowed to sell cooked food and that's why when the regulations were revised to include food vendors,  we were specific to include food vendors that sell fruit and vegetables, not those who sell cooked food," said cooperative governance spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali.

"You can't, for instance have a spaza shop sell amagwinya (fat cakes) ... because that's not what the amendment was all about.

"I will speak with the police in terms of the enforcement of the regulation because it's a definite violation of the regulation and it might lead to those companies being sanctioned," said Mtshali.

When the lockdown was announced last month, government banned the sale of products not deemed essential, which include cooked food and alcohol.

This saw the closure of fast food outlets and restaurants, including the halting of food delivery services, while the police clamped down on people who sold alcohol.

Earlier this week popular local chef and My Kitchen Rules South Africa contestant Luyanda Mafanya lost her essential services permit following her social media post about delivering cooked food during the lockdown.

Responding to Mafanya, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission tweeted: "Prepared food is not an essential service. Delivery is also only allowed for essential products and services."We will be revokeing your application. All revoked applications are handed over to @the_dti to proceed with legal action," read the tweet.

A senior official from the department of trade and industry, who preferred to remain anonymous as Cogta was the only department mandated to speak on the matter, backed Mtshali's view, adding that the police have been responsible for closing down businesses that sell non-essential products and they should channel the same energy on major retail outlets.

Woolworths spokesperson Silindile Gumede said they were operating within the ambit of the law by selling cooked food.

“During the lockdown, we are only allowed to sell ‘essential goods’.  ‘Essential goods’ include all food products,” said Gumede.

King Pie's Andre Els said: "Due to the fact that no King Pie stores are allowed to trade during the lockdown period will result in substantial losses to all our franchise owners."

Chicken Licken's Chantal Sombonos said: "All Chicken Licken stores are closed as per our government’s regulations pertaining to the lockdown.  If government decides to relax some of its regulations we at Chicken Licken will be ready to trade to the public under the government's new regulations."

Pick n Pay and the Shoprite group had not responded to questions from Sowetan at the time of publication.

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