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A year of lockdown: Bheki Cele, NDZ, till slips for cigarettes, no jogging, no dog-walks – remember that?

Published Mar 26, 2021


Johannesburg - Today marks a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa locked us behind the gates of our homes in an attempt to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

That day also marked the end of after-work drinks, eating out, eating hot cooked food (at least for a while), and it gave birth to mask wearing and incessant hand sanitizing.

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One year later, over 9.7 million people have been tested for Covid-19, over 52 500 people have died due to Covid-19-related complications and over 1.5 million people have received text messages informing them they are positively infected.

Thousands more have also battled in hospital and recovered, while some have recovered safely from home. The number of recoveries stands at over 1.46 million.

More recently, South Africa has also started vaccinating health-care workers – with over 220 000 of them being vaccinated to date.

Most people, however, will only get their jabs from November, while 13 million essential workers, people over age 60 and people with chronic illnesses, will be vaccinated between May and October.

At least, that’s the government’s target.

The pandemic has been brutal on the South African way of life – thousands of jobs have been lost, businesses have folded, salaries have been slashed and colleagues have become people you see through a screen and no longer at the coffee station.

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Though it is unquestionable that the pandemic has done more harm than good, just ask DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small (more on that later) – there have been many blunders along the way which in the grander scheme of things were a waste of money and time.

Why couldn’t we buy hot rotisserie chicken at Woolies again?

In the early days of lockdown, some South Africans also developed strong feelings about certain ministers – particularly Police Minister Bheki Cele and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

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More on that later; let us reflect on some of what could, in 2021, be construed as lockdown boo-boos.

No dog walks. No jogging

One of the early controversies that arose after the lockdown was implemented was that there was constant confusion and mixed messaging from the Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council.

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in one occasion told journalists that members of the public would be allowed to jog during the then freshly announced 21-day lockdown. (Remember when we all thought the lockdown would last just three weeks, lol.)

About a day later, he backtracked on his comments and later still, a combative Cele announced that in fact, South Africans would not be legally allowed to jog or walk their dogs outside the perimeters of their homes during the lockdown.

"There shall be no dogs that shall be walked," he said, adding that people should walk their dogs and jog at home.

EFF leader Julius Malema also chimed in on the matter: “I hear some people will be allowed to walk dogs; just don't try us, please. We support the government’s intervention, but rubbish won't be tolerated”.

From about a month later, in April last year, under level 4, and ever since really, jogging and dog-walking has been allowed. Sigh.

No rotisserie chicken

Under lockdown level 4 and 5, takeaways, restaurants and delicatessens in supermarkets were not allowed to operate as their was a regulation which specified that there was to be no hot food allowed for sale. In reality, the regulation did not exist, but a minister had said during a press conference that it was not allowed.

It was later inserted into the regulations as supermarkets persisted in selling pies, cooked hot foods and rotisserie chickens.

READ MORE: No cooked food to be sold – Dlamini-Zuma amends lockdown regulations

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel had to clarify this in a press conference in April last year.

“We would like to clarify the situation (around cooked foods),” Patel said. “When takeaways and restaurants were closed (at the start of the lockdown), we also communicated to the supermarkets their hot food sections need to be closed. As the law stands, it needs to be observed, it is very clear what the position is, they are not allowed to sell cooked foods.”

At the time, popular chef Luyanda Mafanya had also just caused a stir on social media when the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) revoked her essential services permit after she promoted, prepared and sold dishes to clients. Not allowed, said the CIPC.

No Events

DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small were riding their wave nicely before the coronavirus hit. The artists were constantly releasing music, getting booked everywhere and preparing for their massive event: The Scorpion Kings Live at the Sun Arena.

The event was initially supposed to take place in April, but was postponed to August. It never happened, as we are still under lockdown and big events are not allowed. Sigh.

Cele’s till slips for cigarettes

For four months, South Africans were not allowed to buy tobacco products during the lockdown. Cigarette brands never seen before flooded the market, and those known to retail for as little as R1 per loose cigarette shot up to at least R5 a smoke. Ya neh.

READ MORE: Despite lockdown, smokers are still getting their tobacco fix albeit by very expensive means

And then there was that the occasion, around May last year, when Ramaphosa announced during an address (known as “family meetings” in :these days) that cigarette sales would be allowed. But the following day Dlamini Zuma reversed the decision during a press conference.

It was a Cabinet decision, the late minister Jackson Mthembu explained at one of the post-Ramaphosa family meeting press conferences.

Also bringing clarity at the time was the Presidency spokesperson, Khusela Diko, who is now suspended and has not worked since July last year after her late husband, Thandisizwe Diko, was implicated in Covid-19 PPE corruption in Gauteng.

But I digress; Cele famously told journalists that people who were caught smoking cigarettes in public would be asked to produce till slips for their smokes.

READ MORE: Do you smoke in your car or in public? Better have a receipt on hand

“It is not illegal to smoke cigarettes in your house. The only problem is when we find it in a car and you fail to show us where you did you get the cigarette ... and when,” he was quoted as saying by TimesLive.

“If you say you have bought the cigarette, here is the receipt, we’ve got two options there: to get you, and go and get the person who sold the cigarette to you. But if the cigarette was there in your thousand looses and you’re smoking in your home, really, we’re not coming into your house and arrest you,” said Cele.

Unfortunately for Cele, soon after his dodgy remarks senior military members of the SANDF were caught on TV smoking during the funeral proceedings of the late ANC Stalwart Andrew Mlangeni.

It is unclear if they were ever asked to produce their receipts.

We could go on, and on, but winners know when to stop.

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