South Africans baffled by bizarre lockdown clothing rules

 ·13 May 2020

South African stores can only sell shoes if they are “closed toe,” and short-sleeved shirts if they are promoted or displayed to be worn under jackets or jerseys, according to the latest list of government rules that spell out what’s allowed during a nationwide lockdown.

The regulations published Tuesday are the latest addition to a plethora of state directives – ostensibly to limit economic activity and curb the spread of the coronavirus. Most South Africans are baffled about what purpose they serve.

The restrictions are “beyond belief,” Adrian Saville, the chief executive officer of Cannon Asset Managers in Johannesburg, said on Twitter. “We are in the place of folly that becomes tragedy.”

South Africa, which has diagnosed 11,350 coronavirus cases, first imposed a lockdown in late March, banning the sale of most goods besides groceries and medical supplies. The government eased the restrictions from May 1, allowing the sale of winter clothing and bedding to resume.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel’s office said he’d consulted with clothing and textile industry leaders about which goods should be permitted to be sold and they’d welcomed the clarity the new rules provided.

The list includes T-shirts, but only if they’re used as “undergarments for warmth,” and “crop bottoms worn with boots or leggings,” according to the Government Gazette.

“Restarting more parts of our economy is important and we are working hard to ensure that industry follows best practice to protect the health and safety of all our citizens,” Patel said in a statement.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance called for Patel to be fired.

“These new clothing regulations are frankly mad and seem more at place during the 1980s under the Soviet Union than they do in a democracy like South Africa,” Dean Macpherson, the party’s shadow trade and industry minister, said in an emailed statement.

“There is simply no justification for the minister to be determining what clothes people can buy and worse, how they should wear them.”

Read: 3 new lockdown rules for South Africa including the opening of more small businesses – what you need to know

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