PRETORIA - As President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown to curtail the spread of coronavirus in South Africa on Monday, he also warned businesses against unjustified price hikes and panic buying.
“Regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying’. It is important for all South Africans to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous and supply chains remain intact,” Ramaphosa announced from the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
“Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items.”
The president said “a safety net” was being developed to support persons in the informal sector, where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown. He said more details would be announced soon.
“To alleviate congestion at payment points, old age pensions and disability grants will be available for collection from 30 and 31 March 2020, while other categories of grants will be available for collection from 01 April 2020,” he announced.
All channels for access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices, Post Offices and cash pay points.
Ramaphosa said his government is going to support people whose livelihoods will be affected.
“We are in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress because of Covid-19. Through this proposal employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment,” he said.
“Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.”
He said commercial banks in South Africa have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other necessary measures.
“We have met with all the major banks and expect that most banks will put measures in place within the next few days. Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses in particular to take care of their workers during this period,” said Ramaphosa.
“In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilise the reserves within the [Unemployment Insurance Fund] UIF system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support. Details of these will be made available within the next few days.”