Home News ‘Poor cousins’ need travel permits to shop, access health services

‘Poor cousins’ need travel permits to shop, access health services

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‘The only thing a person can buy at the tuck shops is rotten or expired food. We are treated like animals.’

RESIDENTS of Ritchie, situated about 30km outside of Kimberley, have been told that they need to get a permit to travel to Kimberley, Modderrivier and Jacobsdal to buy food and other essential items.

Many members of the community have pointed out that there are no shops or supermarkets in their small town.

The community, most of whom are dependent on grants and social pensions, are forced to travel the 30km to Kimberley or to Jacobsdal, which is 20km away, to do their shopping and to access medical services.

One resident said he was turned back at a roadblock on the N12 while on his way to buy food at the OK Grocery store in Modderrivier. He said that the police threatened to issue him with a fine.

According to the resident, he had attempted earlier to obtain a permit from the police station to travel to Kimberley but was turned away and told to come back the next day.

Taxi operators also stated that the requirement that residents needed a permit to leave Ritchie had crippled their businesses as many were too afraid to travel.

One taxi operator said that the residents of Ritchie had always been treated like the “poor cousins” of the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“The only people we can count on for fares are those who have permits to come into Kimberley for work on a daily basis,” said the taxi operator. 

“We understand that getting a permit is a lockdown requirement but it should be taken into consideration that Ritchie has no shops or essential services like pharmacies and medical practitioners.

“Pensioners are also forced to do their shopping at tuck shops. Many people feel that the tuck shops sell poorer quality goods and at more expensive prices.

One commuter at the Richie taxi rank, Laura McKay, pointed out that the requirements did not appear to apply to people from other towns like Barkly West.

“This is laughable. We are being treated like lepers,” said McKay. “Kimberley and Ritchie fall within the same municipal boundary of the Sol Plaatje Municipality. If we have to apply for permits to travel into town, then so should people from Galeshewe, Roodepan or even Monument Heights. Why should they be allowed to shop where it suits them but we cannot?”

She added that the government had “always neglected” the people of Ritchie.

“If that is what it takes, the community will go on a silent protest and stand on the N12 against this unfair treatment. They can arrest us but the world will know how unfairly we are being treated.

“Even the police don’t take us seriously. It is disrespectful and shameful that someone requesting a permit should be sent back home.” 

Another commuter, Ernest Ditabe, said that the community planned to take up the matter with the relevant authorities as it was “not fair”.

“The only thing a person can buy at the tuck shops is rotten or expired food. We are treated like animals. We are even afraid to go and queue at the police station as it is obvious that many people got paid this week.

“It is not like we are not informed about preventing the spread of Covid-19,” said Ditabe.

Northern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Mohale Ramatseba did not respond to media enquiries.