Coronavirus News Africa

Probe into why cake company remained operational as ‘essential service’


Cape Town police are investigating why a bakery and cake shop is listed as an essential service, which remained operational as recently as Friday.

The Velvet Cake Company in Bellville is in possession of a Co-operatives and Intellectual Property Rights (CIPC) certificate issued on 1 April which states that it had registered as an essential service business during the lockdown period.

But police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo on Friday said Bellville police has been tasked to investigate this, as being in possession of the certificate “does not make them an essential service provider by selling cakes”.

On Friday afternoon, owner Jandri van Zyl said her company had ceased operations.

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“The problem is that the regulations are open to different interpretations. We’ve been in touch with various people in the City of Cape Town and government. But there is no clear guideline on which ‘foods’ are considered essential.

“Currently, all foods would appear to be essential, though certainly not in practice.”

The company on 1 April in a message to its customers on their Facebook page said it had received many comment and complaints regarding the “small-scale resumption of our service”.

According to the post, they were allowed to trade as they supplied food products.

“This is in line with similar suppliers in our industry, supplying baked goods – from doughnuts, rusks, cupcakes, cakes, etc – to retailers and individuals.”

It’s retail shops were not open, the message reads, and only small batches of goods would be produced for home delivery.

“We will have a small team of 4 to 5 employees on our bakery premises, and they will follow all safety and hygiene precautions, as will our delivery drivers. We have practiced due diligence in our process of application at the CIPC, and in setting up our bakery to operate according to sound health and safety protocols in light of Covid-19.”

On Friday, Van Zyl wrote that result of ceasing operations meant that 46 employees will receive no income.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry this week said that during the course of its review of the “essential service” list of applications, the CIPC had established that “certain companies not designated as essential services have either fraudulently or negligently applied on the Bizportal website”.

“As was made clear when the automated certificate was issued by the CIPC, the provision thereof was based on information provided by the registered company itself, and that possession thereof does not in itself constitute the right to continue operating during the lockdown period,” spokesperson Sidwell Medupe had said in a statement.

“The operation of any essential service is subject to full compliance with the applicable lockdown regulations and that the company falls within the scope of essential services as defined in the regulations.”

Medupe said that in a number of cases, companies have applied and received certificates without compliance with the regulated conditions.

“In terms of the applicable regulations during the lockdown, all businesses shall cease operations except for any business involved in the manufacturing, supply and /or provision of an essential service or goods.

“It is a criminal offence for any business to continue operating during the lockdown period if it is not providing an essential service, as defined in the applicable regulations and direction, unless such business can be operated using work-from-home arrangements. It is also a criminal offence for any business which misrepresents the nature of its operations in order to obtain a CIPC certificate,” he warned.

Upon review, it had been found that establishments such as pubs, taverns, restaurants, fast food outlets and pizza parlours had registered to continue operating during the lockdown, in violation of the applicable regulations, Medupe said.

“Businesses in the CIPC database that are not eligible to continue operations during the lockdown have had their certificates cancelled and will be handed over to the South African Police Services for further investigation and potential prosecution.

 “Any business which is not authorised to continue operating during the lockdown in terms of the applicable regulations and directions should cease operations with immediate effect. Businesses which require clarification as to whether they meet the definitions of an essential service business may address their queries to their relevant business association.”

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