Business Insider Edition

You can buy coke and chips, but no cigarettes or alcohol: what we know about SA's lockdown

Business Insider SA
 Mar 26, 2020, 04:00 PM
South Africa shutdown, national lockdown
  • What stores will be open, and what are you allowed to do during the 21-day lockdown in SA?
  • Here is what we know about the national shutdown in South Africa to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which starts on Friday.
  • This article is updated as information becomes available; check back for more.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

(This article is constantly updated, throughout, as new information becomes available. Last updated: 16:05, 26 March 2020)

South Africa enters a national shutdown on Friday, 27 March. From one minute after midnight, South Africans will be expected to stay home except under very specific circumstances, and businesses that are not essential must be shut down.

Failure to comply with the rules could lead to a month in jail, or a fine.

The lockdown is intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19.

Details of exactly how day-to-day life will work continue to emerge, as the government scrambles to deal with the logistics of implementing the new restrictions.

Here's what we know, so far, about South Africa's lockdown, and what you can and can not do.

You can buy coke and chips, but no cigarettes or alcohol

Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned any person who contravenes the regulations of the nationwide lockdown from midnight on Thursday will be guilty of a criminal offence and will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both.

There still seems to be confusion, however, of what constitutes an essential item. Coke, chocolates and chips seems to be a go, cigarettes and alcohol not.

See also: If you smoke, prepare to argue cigarettes are a basic good – or go without during lockdown

See also: You can buy chocolate, chips, and Coke during South Africa’s lockdown

Here is what you can and can’t do: LIST | The dos and don'ts during the national lockdown


You can use Uber and taxis during lockdown, but only at these times.

Those looking to make use of e-hailing vehicle services along with taxis and buses will be on strict schedules during lockdown.

Uber, taxis and other vehicles will transport ‘essential workers” and those performing ‘essential duties’ only during certain times during lockdown, said Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, during Wednesdays’ inter-ministerial briefing.  

Transport movement will only be allowed to operate from 05:00 to 09:00 and then again from 16:00 to 20:00. People will be allowed to use these services to buy food and to collect medicine, and other essential services. 

All vehicles will need to be sanitised at regular intervals with metered taxis and e-hailing vehicles required to be sanitised after each journey. Sanitiser used in all vehicles must have at least 60% alcohol.

The number of passengers per each vehicle allowed will also be reduced to 50% of that vehicles licenced capacity.

This means a vehicle licensed to carry up to 4 people will only be permitted to load 1 person, with the other being a driver. For a vehiclelicensed for eight passengers it would be only be 3.

You may not buy booze for 21 days

Police minister Bheki Cele has announced that no alcohol will be sold during the lockdown and that people may not transport alcohol from one point to another.

Cele also reiterated that no restaurants will be allowed to operate during the 21-day lockdown. “Go buy your food and cook it at home,” he said.

Perpetrators found guilty of lockdown offences will get a fine or six months in jail, or both.


Yes, foreign-owned spaza shops will be open – as long as they are properly licensed.

On Tuesday small business development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni caused confusion by seeming to say that only spaza shops owned by South Africans will be able to stay open during the national Covid-19 lockdown.

On Wednesday her office told Business Insider South Africa that all properly licensed such shops will be expected to stay open – regardless of whether they are foreign owned. That is expected to be reflected in regulations, which will make the lockdown rules law.

Spazas fall under municipal jurisdiction for their licensing, and what the minister apparently meant to say was that only properly licensed (and so considered safe) spaza shops will be excluded from the blanket shut-down.

See also: Only these spaza shops can stay open during SA's lockdown


You may not walk your dog.

In some countries lockdowns specifically made provision for jogging close to home, or other forms of outdoor exercise done with care to avoid contact with other people. Some local governments even encouraged outdoor exercise, as a mental health measure.

In a briefing on Wednesday it was announced that you will not be allowed to walk your dog in South Africa once lockdown is in place.


Your boss can force you to take leave.

Your employer can force you to take leave during the lockdown period, and they will be well within their rights to do so.

 For many South Africans, that may end up being the least worse-case scenario.

Employees who won't be allowed to work during the lockdown period of three weeks, which starts on Thursday night, are to a large degree at the mercy of their employers. 

While government has encouraged all businesses to continue to pay their employees, who may be stuck at home and won’t be able to work during this time, many companies can’t afford this and are considering other options. 

This may include scrapping the traditional shutdown period over December and into January.

See also: Lockdown: Your boss can force you to take leave – and cancel your December break 


All restaurants, bars and coffee shops will be closed – including food delivery services.

All major food delivery services, including Uber Eats and Mr D Food, and restaurants will have to close during the national lockdown starting on Friday, the department of tourism confirmed.

The department of tourism said essential services do not include restaurants, cafes, bars and coffee shops and they will, therefore, have to be closed for the duration of the lockdown.

All food services will be suspended.

See also: Uber eats, Mr D Food and all restaurants to be closed during national lockdown.


ATMs and bank branches will have cash available.

Banks will coordinate among themselves and sharing resources to ensure that bank notes area available at ATMs and bank branches, trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said on Tuesday.

South Africa had done "extraordinary things to enable the banking system to remain strong", he said.


You will be able to go shopping – for essentials – and seek medical care.

Movement restrictions do not apply for shopping trips, when you need food or other important groceries, and trips to the pharmacy are also specifically allowed.

A general call to avoid using medical services except for the most urgent matters remains in place, but going to and from healthcare providers is allowed throughout the shutdown. (If you believe you may have Covid-19, contact the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 0800 029 999. You can also send "hi" to 060 012 3456 via Whatsapp for information.)


Spaza shops will remain open, and will be supported.

Spaza shops are among the retailers considered vital, the government confirmed on Tuesday. They will not only remain open, they will be supported with bulk buying and in other ways, to keep their selves full.

But, like with support being extended to other small businesses, they must be owned by South Africans to qualify for the help.

See also | Prime less 5% for honest small businesses – and plus 10% for chancers: Covid-19 help details


Harvests, and livestock auctions, are due to go ahead.

Specific measures will be taken to ensure that food production and imports continue, minister of agriculture, land reform andrural development Thoko Didiza said at a media briefing.

Livestock auctions will be allowed to continue, albeit with restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend. Upcoming harvests will be accommodated, she said, and imports of agricultural commodities will continue.


You will be allowed to take your pets to the vet.

Essential and emergency travel is expected to be specifically allowed during the lockdown, in general terms.

On Tuesday the government confirmed that veterinary services will continue to operate.

Necessary trips for pet food are also likely to be covered under rules around buying groceries.


Grocery stores, pharmacies, and some other businesses are due to remain open.

Announcing the measures on 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa listed the kinds of businesses that are expected to remain open during the shutdown. The list is not exhaustive, and must be formalised through formal regulations.

These are the types of businesses Ramaphosa said would remain open.

  • Pharmacies
  • Laboratories
  • Banks
  • Essential finance systems, such as the JSE
  • Supermarkets
  • Petrol stations
  • Healthcare providers
  • Companies involved in making or distributing food, basic goods, and medical supplies.

Provision is also to be made for the transport of essential workers.


    Travel is restricted for everyone except specific classes of workers.

    Everyone must stay home during the shutdown, except workers classed as critical.

    The list must still be formalised by publication, but these are the categories of workers Ramaphosa said would be allowed to travel.

    • Health workers, in both the public and private sectors
    • Emergency workers
    • Security services, including police, soldiers, traffic officers
    • Those in the production, supply and distribution of food and other basic goods
    • Those in essential banking systems
    • People who maintain water, electricity, and similar systems.

    On Tuesday trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel added the following people to that list:

    • Those who care for the elderly and sick, including at old-age homes
    • Property protection security, such as private security guards
    • Back-office workers who process salary and wage payments
    • Employees of services who transport food to homes, including online stores
    • Those who transport food, fuel, and other basic goods between SADC countries

    For more information on the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19 direct from the source, see also:

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