Ebrahim Patel's list of 'essentials' a step too far

What common good is served by the state restricting its citizens from wearing slip-slops in winter or summer underwear, the writer asks, after Trade & industry minister Minister Ebrahim Patel's winter clothing list was published.
What common good is served by the state restricting its citizens from wearing slip-slops in winter or summer underwear, the writer asks, after Trade & industry minister Minister Ebrahim Patel's winter clothing list was published.
Image: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Last month, the BBC hailed SA's nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus as "ruthlessly efficient".

The broadcaster lauded President Cyril Ramaphosa for showing leadership and his government for being "seized by the urgency of the moment and wasting no time in imposing restrictive steps and galvanizing crucial support from the private sector".

It was a welcome compliment of the government's efforts to control and manage the spread of the coronavirus. It was also a demonstration of how public co-operation can become government's best weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

Social distancing and practising hygiene have been working well. People are seemingly happy to do what the government asks them to do in good faith to defeat the virus.

But things shouldn't have come to what happened on Monday night. Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel published new regulations on the so-called essential winter clothes citizens are permitted to buy at retail stores under level 4 of the lockdown.

Patel listed underwear, socks, pyjamas, boots, slippers, closed-toe heels and flats, gym wear, jackets and other essential clothing.

In the accessories, there are shawls and scarves, beanies, gloves, socks, belts and headwear. Electric blankets, duvets, blankets and comforters are also permitted. Patel further directed people to only buy closed-toe shoes.

His department defended the outrageous list, saying it was compiled following wide consultations by a task team with industry representatives.

Now what common good is served by the state restricting its citizens from wearing slip-slops in winter or summer underwear? Patel has gone a step too far in trying to regulate the choices that South Africans can make when buying winter clothes.

How would the state be able to enforce these ridiculous regulations practically?

Even more worryingly, to what extent would the protection of the public's welfare be compromised by citizens buying open-toe shoes?

Instead of using regulations to curtail and erode fundamental rights of its citizens, the government should favour educating people and encouraging behavioural change.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X