Between 200 and 300 people gathered outside a popular grocery store, Shoprite, early Saturday in Yeoville, a crime-prone area in Johannesburg’s gritty central business district on day two of a nationwide lockdown.
But as they scrambled to secure their spots, many did not observe the recommended safe distance between them.
Police arrived in 10 patrol vehicles and started firing rubber bullets towards the shoppers.
Startled shoppers trampled on each other and a woman with a baby on her back fell to the ground.
Later the police used whips to get the shoppers to observe social distancing rules.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered South Africa’s 57 million people to stay at home for 21 days and deployed the police and the military to enforce the lockdown.
But many people, especially from poor neighbourhoods, have defied the order, going out in numbers looking for food.
While jogging and dog-walking are banned, shopping for food and other basics, but not alcohol is permitted.
South Africa, which has 1,170 confirmed coronavirus cases, recorded its first death from the virus on Friday.