Government has faced 116 legal challenges to lockdown and rules
These challenges have ranged from opposition to the Disaster Management Act to the ban on cigarette sales and reopening schools
The government has faced 116 legal challenges against various aspects of the lockdown regulations, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Tuesday
Some of these have been settled out of court while others are still pending.
These cases have included challenges to the constitutionality of the Disaster Management Act, the rationality of the ban on cigarettes, the reopening of schools, the prohibition on personal care services and the use of BBBEE criteria in the distribution of relief funds.
The government is defending the legal opposition to the ban on cigarettes and has launched an appeal against a court judgment that declared the level 4 and level 3 lockdown regulations unconstitutional.
Dlamini-Zuma's spokesperson Lungi Mtshali told TimesLIVE that there had been 116 cases against the state, 84 of which had been finalised and 32 were still pending. Cogta had been cited in 55 of the cases while the others concerned other government departments.
Dlamini-Zuma said in a debate on the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the National Council of Provinces that there are opposing views as to how the government should have responded to the pandemic.
Some believe it should have been declared a state of emergency rather than a state of disaster — and that the state has been reckless, moving too quickly from level 4 to level 3, and in reopening schools. Others have challenged the constitutionality of the regulations.
The minister said one of the major challenges being faced is that municipalities have not been able to collect revenue, and the R20bn allocated to assist them under the R500bn relief programme is unlikely to be enough. The Johannesburg metro, for example, is collecting very little of its revenue because people have been unable to pay for services.
“This is going to be a big challenge for us,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
The minister’s views were endorsed by SA Local Government Association (Salga) representative Stella Mondlane, who said the difficulty municipalities have in collecting revenue has limited their ability to meet their obligations to Eskom and the water boards.
Salga has called for an end to electricity disconnections and interruptions of water supply due to non-payment, as this will make it difficult for communities to comply with lockdown regulations.
Mondlane highlighted the additional responsibilities imposed on municipalities by the fight against Covid-19 and the huge financial burden this places on them. Many municipalities are already experiencing liquidity challenges, she said.
In his speech, trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel addressed the problem of excessive pricing.
The Competition Tribunal rules have been amended to fast-track cases of excessive pricing, and measures have been put in place to protect consumers against unfair prices. About 180 complaints and cases have been or are being investigated for various over-pricing offences. Of those that have been completed, the Competition Commission imposed fines and other penalties on 21 companies totaling more than R13m.
The National Consumer Commission had imposed penalties on four companies for overcharging consumers.
Patel said that local industry has nearly doubled the local production capacity of medical-grade masks to nearly 6-million a month in less three months. This provided a secure and stable secure source of supply of personal protective equipment to front-line healthcare workers.
A locally designed ventilator machine is also being developed with a targeted production of 20,000 units for hospitals.
Regarding the post-Covid-19 economy, Patel said SA can no longer be dependent on imports for critical supplies such as pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. New areas for the production of such goods are being investigated.
DA MP Dennis Ryder criticised the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it authoritarian.
Correction: June 23 2020
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there has been more than 19 legal challenges to lockdown regulations; this has been corrected to 116 legal challenges