POLITICAL WEEK AHEAD: State response to people ignoring lockdown under scrutiny
DA leader calls for an ad hoc committee to ensure oversight over organs of state and that civil liberties are protected
The coronavirus will continue to dominate the headlines this week after SA started a three-week nationwide lockdown on Friday in a bid to contain and slow down the rapidly spreading pandemic.
The virus has caused pandemonium across the globe, bringing economies to a standstill. Government briefings on the lockdown and infection numbers are expected throughout the week, amid growing concern that many people, especially in townships, are ignoring the regulations and not adhering to any social distancing.
Under the lockdown regulations people are required to stay at home, except under very specific circumstances such as purchasing groceries or seeking health care. Businesses that are not essential are not permitted to operate. Failure to comply with these rules could result in imprisonment or a fine.
Business Day reported last week that the government and the courts are gearing up for possible urgent legal challenges to the state’s emergency lockdown regulations.
Justice & constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola linked the regulations and their implementation to section 36 of the constitution, which allows for the limitation of constitutional rights “to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society”.
Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng highlighted the likelihood of legal challenges “in relation to the constitutionality or the validity of the measures being implemented” by the state and said courts “therefore have to stay open” to deal with such cases.
Mogoeng delegated the heads of all lower and superior courts to issue their own directives that would enable access to courts in relation to any urgent matter, bail applications, maintenance and domestic violence-related matters and cases. It is understood that the state attorney’s office has asked a number of established senior advocates for pro bono assistance with legal challenges to the shutdown regulations.
On Sunday DA leader John Steenhuisen said he had written to National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise to request that she uses the power at her disposal in terms of the rules of parliament to establish an ad hoc committee to ensure continuous oversight over the national executive authority and organs of state, and to ensure that civil liberties are protected at all times during the lockdown.
He said there have already been numerous reports of brutality at the hands of SA National Defence Force soldiers deployed across the country, with more worrying accounts including allegations of soldiers opening fire on residents, and employing unnecessarily authoritarian and zealous violence and language.