The long queues at Khayelitsha Mall were especially long and winding this week as the coronavirus temporarily closed two other retail centres in the biggest township in the Western Cape.
The closure of two shopping centres in Khayelitsha coupled with the ‘staggering of grant payments’ by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) saw the formation of long queues at Khayelitsha Mall. The back of the long snaking lines were at some point reaching the Khayelitsha Magistrate Court 800 metres away. The closure of the Site C Plaza and Site B shopping centres on Wednesday and Thursday respectively after retail workers there tested positive for the coronavirus brought everyone to the mall.
“We were caught off-guard yesterday and we had to make sure that we intervene today and we have all the officers from Lingelethu West police station here today and the army is also. The volumes have increased today because the Site B shopping centre and Site C plaza have been closed and some people are here to get their Sassa grants,” said Lingelethu West police spokesperson, Sergeant Xoliswa Nyalambisa.
“We are here to ensure that the shoppers adhere to the regulations and that they observe social distancing. We do not allow anyone without a mask into the mall and children are also not allowed. There is one entrance and exit point. We have asked shoppers to form lines according to the shops that they are going to. We have just arrested someone who was refusing an order,” she said.
Malls and shopping centres around the country are expected to be full as people are withdrawing grant money and paying funeral policies and burial societies.
29-year-old Zintle Tyesi, from Albertina Sisulu informal settlement in Harare, thought she had ample time to get her business at the mall done and take her two-year-old child home. “I came here at around 08:00 in the morning and I have been queuing for more than four hours now. I have to pay off a lay-by and still need to go to the ATM to withdraw child grant,” she said.
Tyesi has been unemployed for three years and she receives a child grant for her two-year old and disability grant for her nine-year old. “I have never had a formal job; the last job I did was at a container that sells electricity,” she said.
Disability grant beneficiary, Noluthando Longo, said she also came to the mall at around 08:00, wanting to buy clothes for her grandchildren. “It’s really difficulty for us elderly people to stand in long queues as we would like to sit down and give our feet some rest. I earn disability grant after I fell and broke an ankle at work. I was working in a private house as a cleaner,” said the 59-year-old.
“I asked one of the queue marshalls from the bank that I’m going to if they can’t allow elderly people to go in without having to queue and he said no. I came here at 10:00 and I want to pay my funeral policy,” said 60-year-old Nontobeko Mnyoshe from Harare as she was sitting down.
Another pensioner, Nompumelelo Dloba, said that she had already withdrawn her old age pension and was at the mall to pay her burial society money. “I don’t want to delay the payment as I’m an old person and anything can happen to me now that there is coronavirus,” said the 72-year-old.
According to a statement by Sassa, they have staggered the payments for May as they witnessed scenes of young people pushing elderly people in Soweto last month and the sheer number of people converging on shopping malls made adhering to the social distancing regulation difficult. As a result, the old age pension and disability grants were paid on 4 May and the child support grant, foster child grant and care dependency grant on the 6th of May. This staggering of grant payments caused a lot of confusion among beneficiaries.
The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in Khayelitsha as of 13h00 on 7 May is 517.