Government taken to court again over lockdown regulations

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published11h ago

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Johannesburg – The government’s recent decision to extend the state of national disaster until December 15 is set to be challenged in an urgent court application at the High Court in Pretoria.

An NGO group called Dear South Africa said it had filed its court papers challenging the latest extensions on restrictions with the matter expected to be heard on December 1.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has been cited as the only respondent in the matter.

She has been given until November 18 to file opposing papers on the matter. If she does not do so, then the matter will be heard with urgency on December 1, the organisation said.

The NGO’s court challenge is based on the fact that the extension of the lockdown, currently on level 1, along with state of national disaster is “illogical”. The group wants the decision declared unlawful.

The state of national disaster and the regulations that govern it were enacted under the Disaster Management Act. And Dear South Africa wants the court to set aside the lockdown and the state of national disaster.

“South Africa is no longer faced with the uncertainties that it was confronted with when the initial state of disaster was enacted,” said Daniel Eloff of Hurter Spies, the attorneys representing Dear South Africa.

“Consequently, the government cannot continue to piggyback on a state of disaster for which the underlying and motivating reason has largely dispersed eight months since the initial declaration of the national state of disaster,” the organisation said.

In an affidavit filed at the High Court, Dear South Africa director Rob Hutchinson said “that Constitutional rights have been curtailed by the disaster regulations, including the rights to freedom of movement, residence, assembly, economic activity and education”.

“While many of these restrictions on fundamental rights have been lifted, the (minister) has imposed these restrictions without parliamentary oversight and may reimpose them. The (minister) is empowered to extend the state of disaster monthly ad infinitum without such oversight,” Hutchinson argued.

South Africa entered into its first lockdown in March, and it was extended for another two weeks in April. From then on the country moved into a risk-adjusted system and is now on level 1.

Many parts of the economy have resumed operations. Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the further lifting of restrictions, especially on international travel. Some restrictions remain such as the number of people allowed at gatherings whether indoors or outdoors.

Ramaphosa cautioned that a threat of a second wave was possible. Countries in Europe and the US have been experiencing a second wave of rising cases, which have necessitated further restrictions on movements.

As of Monday night, 20 314 people had died from the coronavirus in South Africa. A total of 1245 new cases were recorded.

Dear South Africa believes that even if the country were to experience a second wave, the government has enough time to prepare.

“If a second wave of infections occurs, the state has had ample time to prepare for this and a new state of disaster could be declared based on new circumstances that may arise. It is improper to keep the current state of disaster perpetually in force on the basis that some new disaster may occur on some unknown date,” the organisation argued in its court submissions.

This is not the first court challenge the government has faced regarding the national lockdown. Earlier this year, some parts of the regulations were successfully challenged by The Liberty Fighters Network. The government filed an appeal soon after.

Political Bureau

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