JOHANNESBURG – Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel announced the partial reopening of the manufacturing sector during Level 4 of the national lockdown, including the production of children’s and winter clothing.

“We know how important it is for families to get warm clothing. Part of fighting the virus is to avoid the cold; blanket manufacturing for a similar reason; computers and mobile phones so that we can enable more people to work from home,” Patel said at a press conference on Saturday.

Some manufacturing of cars, cement material and hardware would be allowed, said Patel.

He said 20percent of all manufacturing workers would begin to restart work, adding that the sector would not reopen 100percent.

“Firms need to be given an opportunity for a phased return to work. We need to begin to test the systems at factory gates, at work areas, in the canteens in bathrooms in the screening of workers in transport,” said Patel.

The partial reopening of manufacturing comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a risk-adjusted approach to easing the lockdown which started on March 26.

Proudly SA chief executive Eustace Mashimbye, welcoming Patel’s decision, said: “this move may mitigate against further losses and allow the sector to retain workers when so many others are losing jobs.”

The National Clothing Retail Federation of SA (NCRF) on Friday called on Patel to reopen retail stores to meet the increasing demand for “essential” retail winter items.

The NCRF, whose clothing members include retail giants Truworths, Woolworths, Mr Price, the Foschini Group, Pick * Pay and Queenspark, said stores should be reopened by Friday to meet the winter demand.

In a letter to Patel, NCRF executive director Michael Lawrence appealed for the functional opening of clothing retail to be a component feature of Level 4.

“Winter items are necessary to purchase as households which keep limited clothing for financial and space reasons increase demand for retail CTFL products,” said the letter. It added that a number of consumers who used a lay-bye system of purchase now needed to collect the garments that were necessary for the season.

Lawrence said the opening of retail stores would reduce the foot traffic at food retailers that received permission to sell infant wear. “More people will visit food stores for infant clothing, whereas retail stores can accommodate these shoppers and reduce the risk of the transmission of the pandemic,” Lawrence added.


By Dineo Faku