I’m not shopping today. I’m just talking about it.
We’re still doing ok on the things we bought in before the lockdown started. And no, we didn’t stockpile. We don’t have the space or the moral delinquency for that. We just bought sensibly for a couple of weeks ahead (because it was obvious that this was going to happen) and we’ve been careful with what we’ve used.
I will have to venture out and shop this week though. I’m planning to combine it with a blood donation. We’re a bit short on fresh stuff: bread and milk and fruit and veg.
There’s a list of essential items that you are allowed to buy:
It forms part of the legislation around the lockdown which I shared here. And it seems completely reasonable until you start looking at the details.
Now, to be fair, I do understand some of the reasoning behind this – everything should be done to keep supermarkets stocked with essential items, and so transport systems don’t need to be overwhelmed or distracted by stuff we can manage without right now: cut flowers, clothing, gardening goods etc.
I get it. It’s just where those lines between “essential” and “non-essential” have been drawn that’s possibly up for debate.
Let’s look at the big ones: alcohol and faaags.
Alcohol, I can understand. SA has a huge problem with alcohol, and cooping people up in a tiny space for 3 (or more) weeks with nothing to do but drink is a recipe for disaster. That’s not great for those people who don’t have a dependency on drink, but that’s not what this is about.
Tobacco though? Isn’t that the other way around? I’m not a smoker and I recognise that it’s not a healthy habit, but it seems to me that as a coping mechanism, tobacco has a place in this lockdown. And forcing the 20% of South Africans who smoke (that’s 10 million people) to go cold turkey with basically no warning whatsoever seems like a very bad idea to me.
And then some of the things that I’ve seen and heard on social media. Like the fact that you can buy floor cleaner, but you can’t buy a mop. To be fair, one is pretty much useless without the other. It’s not something that I would feel to be hugely essential during the lockdown, sure. But if you’re going to allow one, why on earth not the other?
And then there’s crisps/chips/crisps. I’ve seen images of entire crisp/chip/crisp aisles taped off at the supermarkets. Apparently, you can buy potatoes, just not processed potatoes. Why? And where does that leave us on the biltong front? Because denying South Africans access to biltong is denying them a basic human right. Like denying them the freedom to walk around outside.
Some of these questions may be answered when I head out later in the week, but it might well be the case that my journey out will end up with me finding more of these mildly bizarre dichotomies while I’m trying to keep the family fed for the next few weeks.
I’ll keep you posted. (Because let’s face it, you’ve really nothing better to do right now.)