As part of its “myth-busting” initiative around the response to Covid-19 in SA, the government published an online graphic declaring that “our freedoms will never be at risk and are protected by the constitution”. It has inadvertently peddled its own myth in the process: that South Africans’ civil liberties are kept alive by nothing more than an inanimate legal text and the good intentions of politicians.

The “myth”  the graphic ostensibly counters is that “lockdown measures deprive people of their freedoms and are in keeping with an authoritarian regime”. This is far from mythical, though it may be a (slightly) overstated version of the truth. The government’s full answer to this myth is that “the current measures are temporary and have been enacted to protect our nation and her people”. It then continues to mention the aforementioned constitutional protection, but additionally says “our commitment to the rule of law and democracy and freedom” is a further reason for South Af...

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