'We are sociable, I will miss that' - queuing shoppers reflect on 21-day lockdown


"I'm not thinking about what I'm going to do, I'm thinking about what people in informal settlements are going to do," said Capetonian Mervyn Solomons as he waited in a queue at Makro after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown to help halt the spread of Covid-19.

"I am also going to miss the social interaction," said Solomons in a queue at the bulk-buy store on Koeberg Road.

He was stocking up for his 93-year-old mother so that she doesn't have to leave the house and battle the long queues and busy shops. 

Visits to his mom have already stopped due to safety precautions for the coronavirus, and it will be up to him to make sure she is taken care of. 

But the 54-year-old self-employed dad says the thing he will miss most as he goes into lockdown, will be the buzz on the streets. 


"We are sociable. Wherever you go, people give you a hug, people give you a high five. I will miss that." 

He plans on helping his grandchildren with the homework after they were sent home by their schools early last week. He will also catch up on odd jobs around the house. 

With an equally long queue of delivery trucks at the back of the store, managers walked the queues to reassure everybody that there was enough to go around, and offered to take older people to the front of the queue.

Ramaphosa urged people to not buy in a panic and said they would still be allowed to go to the shops.

Although this message was heard, it did not stop people from stocking up "just in case".

Entrance at the Makro was being staggered to 50 people at a time and inside the store a worker was tasked with reading the World Health Organisation's guidelines on social distancing over the store's public announcement system.

Outside a woman with a mask and gloves sanitised trolleys endlessly. She will be among the retail workers at the front line during the pandemic, making sure food and essential supplies are available.


Sanitising trolleys at Makro. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Nono Xabela was near the front door of Makro and was pleased that the wait was not long.

For Xabela, the 21-day lockdown comes at the perfect time to focus on her spiritual well-being, and is perfectly timed with the reflection that she would normally have done over the Easter period.

She is going to miss her quiet time on nearby Blouberg Beach the most, after the City of Cape Town closed the beaches after observing that people were flocking there for fresh air, and not maintaining social distancing. 

Cheri Immelman got straight to the point as she queued outside the Pick n Pay at Boy de Goede Circle in Table View. 

"It's just a bit of panic buying because of the shutdown," said Immelman, wearing a mask.

Tinned foods and disinfectants were on her shopping list. 

"I'm digging in to emergency funds, so what can you do? Pay day is only on the 25th, on Wednesday, so it will probably be even more chaotic." 


Cheri Immelman is getting essentials in before the pay day stockpile rush. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Belinda Zeelie's pet-sitting business has shut down, so she has put word out that she is a home health care worker for anybody who needs assistance during the lockdown.

"Basically, I must just maar grin and bear it," she told News24.

She was buying boxed milk, and non-perishables, and had already got a month's chronic medication in. Her mother was also out getting her own medication stocked up.

The store usually stays open until 23:00 to cater to the large number of shift workers who live in the area, and the nearby refinery's staff.

A sudden rush ensued after Ramaphosa's announcement on Monday night that the lockdown will begin at midnight on Thursday. 


People descended on the store to start shopping, so by Tuesday morning the numbers of shoppers allowed in to the store at one time was limited by a patient security guard. 

"Only five at a time, people," he said calmly.

The queuers also strategised so that one person would go to the liquor store, which is also affected by strict shutdown rules, while another waited in the food queue.

Janson and Lebogang Makgati were stocking up on basics for the children, including nappies and wipes, to avoid repeatedly going to the shops. 

"We all have to do what the president says," said Makgati. 

Lebogang is an essential services worker and will keep going to work, and is receiving a lot of emotional support from her family and her company.

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