Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

Nearly 7,000 people were allowed to leave SA in May though the borders were closed under the strict level 4 lockdown, home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

Those permitted to leave during the lockdown, which has been imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, included people who work, study or have families outside the country. Those seeking medical care outside SA were also permitted to leave.

The minister said that of the people who left under the special category, 6,108 went by road, 688 by air and three by sea.

“The borders remain closed ... there is no decision from the national coronavirus command council or the cabinet to open the borders,” Motsoaledi said during a media briefing to outline the level 3 regulations, in Pretoria on Thursday evening.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on May 24 that SA will move to level 3 on June 1, to open up the struggling economy and allow about 5-million people to return to work.

Under level 3, schools and churches will reopen and the sale of alcohol will be allowed on certain days between 9am and 5pm. But  the ban on cigarette sales remains in place.

Earlier on Thursday, co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said under level 3, children from neighbouring countries who attend school in SA daily will be permitted to enter and leave the country.

Transportation of fuel, cargo and goods, and humanitarian operations, repatriations, evacuations, and movement of staff of diplomatic and international organisations will also be permitted to enter and leave.

The minister said under level 3 the department of home affairs will offer marriage registrations by appointment only. Weddings will remain prohibited.

However, marriage registrations will put a further strain on the department’s reduced capacity to deliver services.

On Tuesday, home affairs acting director-general Jackie McKay told a parliamentary portfolio committee that the department was battling a backlog of birth registrations on May 1.

The department had registered 46,541 births, said McKay, but they had a backlog of 35,109 babies to register. These would be cleared within five days, he said.

On the collection of smart ID cards, McKay said of the 412,686 uncollected cards only 29,475 had been collected. The department would intensify its communication strategy for applicants to collect their cards.

The DA said on Thursday the release of the level 3 regulations by Dlamini-Zuma confirms its view that the government “is no longer focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, their focus has shifted to undermining the hard-fought freedoms of all South Africans.”

Among the DA's objects are the continued ban on the sale of cigarettes, the times at which people may exercise (6am to 6pm), the restrictions on hair salons and personal care, and the sale of liquor for only four days in the week.

“These regulations once again are illogical, irrational and lack any scientific basis. South Africans have long lost their confidence in our government’s ability to manage the lockdown in a manner that had originally attracted the full support of all political parties and South Africans,” the official opposition party said.

The DA has approached the Constitutional Court to have sections of the Disaster Management Act, which governs the lockdown, declared unconstitutional.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za