The list of essential services has been updated to include hardware stores, electricians, mechanics and plumbers. 

This past week, more South Africans have been able to leave their homes to fulfill their work duties, generating revenue in these industries, however, this comes with the risk of contracting the coronavirus in public spaces. This follows the government’s expansion of the list of essential services to include mechanics, electricians and plumbers.

Making the announcement, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that those workers who deal with the repair of electricity, water and vehicles should be operational.

“It’s clear that we need to make sure that there are warehouses that are open that supply components  for essential services whether it’s water, whether it’s electricity…Also for homes, private homes, if you have a burst pipe or something goes wrong with your electricity, you should be able to call a plumber, a professional plumber, or electrician to come and sort that out,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

This has been welcomed by these services industries. Andre Wilken (59), manager of SP Electrical in Nelspruit, told Wits Vuvuzela that it is important for their business to be in operation as electrical work must be carried out by a qualified professional. 

“It is no problem for us to work [during] lockdown as we keep up to health and safety standards. We use sanitisers before we enter a home and use face masks,” he said.

However, Wilken believes that to prevent a spike in the virus, businesses should not all open at once, but does see how not working has impacted their business. “It’s been tough. Business has dropped and we had to let some of our staff stay at home.

“We did, however, pay them till the end of April. After that we will have to see what we’re going to do,” said Wilkens. SP Electrical has eight employees, however, Wilken, his boss and another employee are currently keeping the business running. 

Owner of VJ’s Auto Clinic mechanical service in Roodepoort, Valerian Joseph (48), agrees that income has been negatively affected since the lockdown began. However, he told Wits Vuvuzela that although he could use sanitising and protective gear, he has fears about working.

“I don’t want to work during this time due to the risk of customers having the virus,” Joseph said. However, he feels that businesses will have to open due to the lack of income and would work when necessary. 

Builders Warehouse has informed customers, on the company’s website, that shops are not open to the general public and will only be selling goods to essential workers for emergency repairs relating to plumbing, electrics, locks and roofs. 

Any person intending to purchase anything from Builders Warehouse will have to do so with a Builders profile which logs the customer’s details, with a form declaring that the purchase is for an emergency repair. 

Chamberlains hardware, which has eight stores in Gauteng, has instituted a call-in and collect process which requires customers to have an essential services certificate and proof of identification.

Their website states that, “Prior to visiting any of our branches, we ask that you call your local branch to confirm the regulatory documents required for your purchase and to arrange your order and time for collection.” 

The servicing of vehicles used by essential staff was one of the reasons Dlamini-Zuma mentioned for allowing mechanics to operate. She also said that there would be an orderly move toward what would be ‘normality’ and that weekly announcements would be made concerning additional areas being opened. “When we do stop the lockdown we cannot do it abruptly,” she said. 

FEATURED IMAGE: A close-up of a drill, hammer, pliers and tap fitments to – basic tools that a maintenance person would need. Photo: Leah Wilson