South Africa’s government is facing a backlash over new lockdown regulations detailing what clothes can and cannot be sold in shops.
The opposition has compared the rules to Soviet-style bureaucracy.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) party is under mounting public pressure to ease lockdown rules despite warnings that infections will only peak in two or three months.
The new regulations are impressively detailed:
1. Shoes may now be sold – but not if they’re opened-toed
2. T-shirts are OK – but only if advertised and sold as undergarments
3. The same goes for sleeveless knitted tops…
There is a logic to all this.
Winter is coming – and the government is trying to ease some of the tightest lockdown restrictions in the world. Hence the green light for the sale of winter clothes.
But Dean MacPherson, from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), is unimpressed: “Quite frankly ridiculous and mad. More likely these sorts of rules found in the Soviet Union and East Germany.”
Like many countries, South Africa is now trying to rescue a collapsing economy, while avoiding a new surge of infections.
The fear is that it may fail on both counts.
The crisis has exposed deep rifts in government between ministers more inclined to authoritarian solutions, including an ongoing ban on all alcohol and cigarette sales, and those who now believe South Africans should be trusted with more individual freedoms – including the right to buy sandals and exposed knitwear.