Newcastle businessmen arrested for playing golf during lockdown


Six businessmen were arrested on Saturday on the Newcastle Golf Course after members of the public observed them playing golf and tipped off the police.

The businessmen, who violated lockdown regulations, were charged under the Disaster Management Act and each paid R1 500 bail to be released from custody. They are now awaiting their court dates.

Golf course manager, Eldred Darvall, said the incident was not brought to his attention. “There are only three staff members, and the security guards, who have essential services permits to be on the golf course in order to water the greens and maintain the facility, but nobody is allowed to go there and play golf,” stated Mr Darvall.

In a telephonic interview with the Newcastle Advertiser, one of the businessmen, who cannot be named until they have appeared in court, confirmed that the incident did indeed take place and admitted that in hindsight, he regretted the decision to play golf.

“We obviously disobeyed the law and the law took its course,” he said.

The businessman confided that he and his colleagues were seeking to relieve some of their pent up anxiety caused by the impact of the coronavirus epidemic. He explained they were attempting to take “the edge off” the stress they were feeling over the uncertainty of their economic futures, which seemed to build with each passing day the lockdown continues.

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Saturday was day 30 of South Africa’s 35 day national lockdown. While restrictions will ease slightly as parts of the country move from a level 5 lockdown to level 4 on May 1, many businesses will have to remain closed and those allowed to re-open will have to operate at reduced capacity under strictly controlled conditions. With the survival of their business enterprises on tenterhooks as the coronavirus continues to claim lives and livelihoods, local business owners have admitted to feeling fearful and uncertain about whether they will even be able to re-open after restrictions are lifted.

“As business people, we are really taking strain,” continued the businessman. “Even though there is no cash flow, we are still paying staff their salaries, even though they are at home, and our overheads like rent or rates, remains the same.”

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Despite the fact that they clearly violated the lockdown regulations, the businessmen are very aware of the risk of Covid-19 transmission and agreed on the measures they would take to safeguard themselves from possible infection, before heading to the golf course.

Each golfer was alone in his own golf cart. There was no sharing of equipment. They remained at least 1.5m apart from each other, wore face masks and regularly applied hand sanitiser, said the businessman.

District mayor and head of the Amajuba Response to the Coronavirus Epidemic, Dr Musa Ngubane, said he didn’t blame business people for feeling anxious. He wished to appeal to residents, however, to refrain from accessing recreational facilities until the danger of covid-19 infection is contained.

“We need to look at this epidemic in the context of war. In times of war, if you are told that the only way you can save yourself is by hiding, you don’t think about hunger, you don’t think about your business, you only think about staying alive and keeping your family safe. The lockdown is intended to save lives while we are at war with an enemy we cannot see. People are dying in this war. Let us concentrate in what we need to do to save lives,” concluded Dr Ngubane.

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