Wits Vuvuzela student journalist, Niall Higgins visited a number of shopping centres in the East Rand area to observe the way the lockdown rules like social distancing, the wearing of masks and remain home were being adhered to.

The first location and the busiest by far, was the Northmead Square (above), in Benoni. The number of cars present in the parking lot was a good indication of the number of shoppers and employees at the mini-mall. Simpiwe Ndlovu, a 32-year-old resident of Benoni, who was drawing money from the ATM, said that he needed “to make deposits and keep some extra cash on hand in case the lockdown becomes serious again and I can’t leave my house.”

The next location visited was the El Ridge Corner shopping center in Farramere. Although significantly quieter than Northmead Square, most of the open stores still attracted a substantial number of shoppers and the parking lot was not exactly empty. Later in the day, I did notice a few cars with familiar number plates and I recognised a few of the drivers from mall at other locations in the area.

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The place that was completely abandoned was the liqour store in Boksburg which was due to the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. However, across the street at The Palms center, the parking lot was almost at maximum capacity with a long queue was waiting outside a Cotton On clothing store. 24-year-old old student Sarah Peterson, who was standing in the queue, said that there was a sale at Cotton On that day and that buying new clothes was keeping her sane during the lockdown. “I know that clothing is not exactly essential, but it makes me feel fresh to buy new outfits even though I have to wear my new clothes at home. In a way, I guess it’s keeping me sane and that is an essential enough reason for me.”

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One might assume that a mall of all places would be a sort of ghost town during a pandemic as serious as the one presented by covid-19. However, that did not seem to be the case for the East Rand Mall in Boksburg, which seemed to be bustling with customers and cars aplenty.

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The next stop was the Rebel Food store in Atlasville. Rebel is known to sell mostly fruit and vegetable products as well as healthy, organic produce. Whilst it is good to see people waiting to buy fresh food during the lockdown period, it is slightly unsettling to see how long the queue was in front of the store. Local shopper, 68-year-old pensioner Mark Davidson, said he was looking after his health especially with covid-19.  “Many people get lazy and fall into the trap of buying fast-food and eating unhealthy to comfort themselves. I think it is more important than ever to stay healthy and well-nourished and if that means standing in a queue then so be it. I have a mask and gloves, so there’s no problem,” Davidson said.

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The final location on the list was the Atlas Mall in Atlasville. Yet again, the parking lot remained quite occupied as seen in the images above. Most of the stores featured in this essay followed various safety procedures such as the sanitising of customer’s hands as people entered the shop and therefore, one cannot blame shopkeepers for the large number of shoppers that frequent stores, as such businesses are an essential feature of our economy. However, if these images are anything to go by, it seems that the South Africans I observed are not taking the lockdown stages as seriously as we should be.

Stay home and stay safe, South Africa!