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'When people zol': SA's lockdown in quotes

04 July 2020 - 07:08 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Among the most controversial decisions of the lockdown were those to ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
Among the most controversial decisions of the lockdown were those to ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
Image: 123RF/Stefano Carnevali

“We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa, as he announced a 21-day hard lockdown of the country.

At the time, the coronavirus pandemic had hit SA. There were 61 cases then.

“Our priority must be to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all South Africans, to minimise the number of infections and to ensure all those infected get proper treatment. While we are battling a contagious virus, perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance,” he said.

It was a decision that triggered economic challenges, a “flattening of the curve” and slowing down in the initial spread of the virus, and a flurry of fights between the government and the people.

Among the most controversial decisions were those to ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

For 21 days, please stay sober.
Police minister Bheki Cele

It was police minister Bheki Cele who told South Africans that the sale of alcohol would be prohibited.

“Movement of alcohol will be restricted. There shall be no movement of liquor from point A to B,” said Cele. “If we find liquor in your car's boot, that is illegal. If you break these laws, you are six months in jail or fined. For 21 days, please stay sober.”

Soon after, Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the ban on tobacco and related products. Controversy would continue to dog this decision after the ban remained in place despite the opening up of the economy when the hard — level 5 — lockdown was lifted.

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association would end up in a tit-for-tat, often heated, legal battle against Dlamini-Zuma and the government.

Dlamini-Zuma, in explaining why the ban was kept in place, said: “When people zol, they put saliva on the paper ... And when they share that zol they are moving saliva from one to the other.”

The words were immortalised in a song by Max Hurrell.

Fita, however, were not taking the ban lightly.

“From the studies that have been done so far, the evidence is that the use of tobacco products increases not only the risk of transmission of Covid-19, but also the risk of contracting a more severe form of the disease,” the organisation said in court papers.

Ultimately, Fita would lose its case, though on day 99 of the lockdown it announced that it was lodging an appeal in the matter. It is a saga that is sure to continue to play out in the coming weeks.

The lockdown also saw trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel publishing regulations on the kind of clothes South Africans were allowed to buy.

“I call on consumers to look for SA-made products, made proudly by local workers, so that we can rebuild the economy,” he said.

But the lockdown also opened many people's eyes to police and military brutality — particularly highlighted by the murder of Collins Khosa, who was killed at his Alexandra home, allegedly at the hands of soldiers.

His partner, Nomsa Montsha, gave an account of the events that led to his death.

“Without making enquiries, the SANDF members manhandled and assaulted Mr Khosa by pouring beer on top of his head. One member held his hand behind his back while the others choked him and slammed him against the cement wall. They hit him with a butt of the machine gun. They kicked, slapped and punched him in his face, stomach and ribs,” she said in court papers.