South Africa court rules lockdown restrictions 'irrational'

Friday June 5 2020

South African police officers at a road block

South African police officers at a road block near Cape Town on March 31, 2020 enforcing lockdown. PHOTO | RODGER BOSCH | AFP 

PETER DUBE
By PETER DUBE
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The High Court in Pretoria has ruled as "unconstitutional and invalid" alert levels four and five lockdown regulations imposed by the South African government in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

A court challenge filed by Reyno Dawid de Beer and Liberty Fighters Network argued that the regulations infringed rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

Most businesses, social activities and movement of people were restricted under levels four and five under measures described by President Cyril Ramaphosa as "stringent."

South Africa is currently under level three which has however opened way for various sectors of the economy to operate and the government has indicated that they could revert to previous lockdown phases if the coronavirus spread worsens.

But Judge Norman Davies in his ruling said the declaration of a national state of disaster remains rational but regulations that come with it should not encroach on people's rights.

"The regulations promulgated by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 be declared unconstitutional and invalid," read the ruling.

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"Declaration of invalidity is suspended until such time as the minister, after consultation with the cabinet, reviews, amends and republishes the regulations mentioned above with due consideration to the limitation each regulation has on the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights as contained in the constitution."

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has 14 days to review, amend and republish the changes to the regulations while current lockdown measures remain in operation.

Justice Davies spoke for the rights of "traders, fisheries, shore-foragers, construction workers, street vendors, waste pickers, hairdressers and the like who have lost their livelihood and the right to 'eke out a livelihood...'"

The South African government has been dragged to court including by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association, British American Tobacco South Africa and opposition party the Democratic Alliance.

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