Johannesburg – Police officers enforcing lockdown regulations on Thursday arrested a Soweto butcher who was allegedly selling rotten meat at the Bara Taxi Rank.
Police said the suspect was also arrested because he did not have a permit to operate during the lockdown and his trading certificate, which was hanging on the wall, had expired.
The operation was carried out by the South African Police Services and the Johannesburg Metro Police.
A witness who was at the scene said one’s nostrils were assaulted by a pungent smell upon entering the man’s store at Bara Taxi Rank in Soweto. He said it was later found some of the meat was rotten.
Inside, he said, customers were busy shopping. No one had masks or gloves on and the customers didn’t seem to be bothered by the smell.
“They said they were used to the smell. Some were buying the meat for their homes while others were stocking to resell at the taxi rank where they work as hawkers.
“No one observed social distancing inside the store and when the police asked the owner where the smell was coming from, he said it was from tripe.
“However, police said there was no way fresh tripe would smell like that.”
The witness said the employees at the store said it had been business as usual since the lockdown as they had never closed the shop and the owner had told them to keep reporting for duty as he had a permit.
However, when the man was asked to produce it, he failed to do so.
He was arrested then taken to Diepkloof Police Station where he was detained. His shop was also shut and the workers sent home.
Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela was also part of the operation and said he was dismayed by what he was seeing.
People, he said, were failing to observe the lockdown and were carrying on with their lives as it the country was not facing a Covid-19 pandemic.
“There is a high level of non-compliance and ignorance. People are still gathering because they say nothing will happen to them. I want people to speak to their conscience and observe the lockdown,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking to SABC on Thursday, Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko warned the public to check for expiry dates on meat products before purchasing meat. She said they suspected the meat could have been part of stock theft as they also uncovered cow heads which had no stamps from the abattoir.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo did not want to comment on the matter, saying officers were still busy with the operation. He said they started with the operation at midnight after receiving complaints that people were not complying with the lockdown regulations.
He said they had also been called to Westbury where they arrested 26 people who were roaming the streets while others were drinking.
Naidoo said they would go from area to area and also check whether people who claimed to be going to supermarkets were going there or just wanted to use that as an excuse to roam the streets.
By Botho Molosankwe