Government's restrictions on winter clothing elicit anger

T-shirts and shorts are cordoned off from sale to the public under new regulations./ THULANI MBELE
T-shirts and shorts are cordoned off from sale to the public under new regulations./ THULANI MBELE

There's been outrage over the government's restrictions on clothing that can be bought for winter under new regulations for lockdown level 4.

Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel gazetted the regulations on Monday, listing 52 clothing items that retail clothing stores can sell to the public.

These items include the type of T-shirts, underwear, shoes, jerseys, jeans and jackets.

The list also details that closed-toe heels, closed-toe flat shoes and smart and casual closed-toe shoes will be sold, meaning customers cannot buy sandals.

Advocacy group Right2Know said that the overly descriptive manner on the list of permitted items showed that the government was losing sight of the bigger picture, which was to reduce the number of coronavirus infections and flatten the curve.

R2K deputy national co-
ordinator Ghalib Galant said this was also evident in some of the restrictions that the government had imposed that had nothing to do with the fight against coronavirus.

"There's a fundamental question for us within R2K around the regulations and purpose of the regulations. Often our ministers forget that we're dealing here with a health crisis and that the purpose of this state of disaster was to flatten the curve and so everything really should be looked at through that lens," Galant said.

"Our problem would be with over prescriptive manner of the regulations. That's the real issue. Why does he allow crop short for example, but then you have to wear tights underneath. It feels like such a level of detail that is unnecessary. If he had taken a more purposive approach to the regulations he could have avoided all of this."

Several store managers told Sowetan yesterday that they were in constant battle with some customers to enforce the regulations. A manager at Ackermans at Northgate Mall in Johannesburg said they had to remove some of their stock from the floor so that they are only left with permitted items.

At Markham, another manager said customers who wanted specifics such as bags and certain T-shirts were left disappointed when they arrived at the point of sale and were told that they could not buy the items.

"We also had to stop selling accessories such as bags and a lot of summer clothes such as shorts," the manager, who did not want to be named, said.

The DA said the regulations were "plucked from Alice in Wonderland".

DA MP Dean Macpherson said they did not have a place in the new, democratic SA.

"The DA believes that people should be able to buy whatever they want, as long as it is done in a safe way with health protocols. There is no rationale for a clothing list.

"It is now beyond doubt that minister Patel is running amok without any restraint from President [Cyril] Ramaphosa. He has been allowed to pick winners and losers in the economy, to determine what is 'fair' and now has gone to the extreme to determine what clothes people can buy and how they should wear them," he said.

However, Peter Masango, a customer who bought clothing at an Ackermans store yesterday, said he saw nothing wrong with the government listing specific items that can be sold. "We just bought winter jerseys now and that's what we need. I mean, what would I need sandals for when it's this cold?"

Department spokesperson Sidwell Medupi said Patel did not unilaterally come up with the list but that it was in consultation with stakeholders in the clothing industry.

"The list that you see was developed in consultation with the industry. The information you see there is what the industry agreed on," he said.

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