Push for relaxation of lockdown restrictions in South Africa

 ·16 Aug 2021

The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) has called for the further relaxation of the country’s lockdown laws, as thousands of businesses continue to trade in a restricted environment, including reduced hours.

The association’s chief executive Wendy Alberts told BusinessDay that an estimated 1,100 restaurants shut down during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the association once had a database of more than 23,400 restaurants, she said that this has since dropped to 9,000 since the pandemic started, leaving thousands of workers jobless.

Alberts added that calls for financial assistance from the government have fallen on deaf ears.

South Africa moved to an adjusted level 3 lockdown on 25 July, with a number of restrictions still in place on eateries and other businesses.

This includes:

  • An evening curfew from 22h00 – 04h00
  • Non-essential establishments, such as restaurants, gyms and fitness centres, can operate but must close by 21h00;
  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10h00 and 18h00 from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 20h00;
  • Gatherings are allowed but are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Only 50 people are allowed to attend funerals.

Under pressure

The lockdown has put many small businesses – restaurants and gyms in particular – under severe strain, forcing some to close down, said Nkuli Bogopa, chief operating officer of property management at commercial property services company, Broll Property Group.

Broll, which manages over 400 shopping centres at present, said that there are a lot more properties up for sale, including in the industrial sector, which has performed better than most in recent times.

“We are seeing all over again the closure of smaller businesses from restaurants to gyms. It is definitely going to impact our rental collections and the investor landscape in terms of income,” Bogopa said.

Data from Statistics South Africa meanwhile, showed that close to 1,000 businesses have been liquidated in the first half of 2021.

Liquidation refers to the winding-up of the affairs of a company or close corporation when liabilities exceed assets and it can be resolved by voluntary action or by an order of the court.

The group recorded 997 liquidations of companies and close corporations between January and June 2021, up from 763 businesses over the same period last year. Over 2,000 liquidations were recorded by the end of 2020.

Clamp down

While businesses have called for the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in South Africa, authorities have warned that they will clamp down on restaurants that continue to flout Covid-19 regulations.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said that the recent looting and unrest had led to a spike in cases.

“There is still a curfew and people must operate from four to 10, there are still regulations that only 50 people are indoors and all regulations must be followed as such and only 100 people outdoors.

“We will be dealing with areas where business and restaurants in particular, as well as pubs, are undermining these regulations and we will be hard on that. We are not going to relent on that,” said Zikalala.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported in excess of 10,000 new cases on Sunday evening, with KwaZulu-Natal reporting the most cases, at just less than 3,000.

A further 272 Covid-19 related deaths were reported, taking total fatalities to 77,141 to date.

Read: What the law says about hiring an illegal foreign worker in South Africa

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