In The Administrator of Dr JS Moroka Municipality and Three Others v Thammy Goodwin Kubheka (case 1170/20), certain individuals attended to their jobs by crossing provincial borders during the lockdown period, in contravention of regulation 11B issued on 25 March 2020. However, none of the parties held valid permits which specified their services as essential, nor permitted them to travel across provincial borders in providing their services.
In handing down his judgement Acting Judge Brauckmann elaborated on the purpose of the regulations issued in enforcing the lockdown. According to Acting Judge Brauckmann “the regulations were made to keep South African citizens at home and safe for at least 21 days in order to prevent the uncontrollable spread of the viral infection. Should the citizens not heed the call, the pandemic might reach such proportions that South Africa’s health system would not be able to contain the spread thereof, nor treat those infected properly.”
Furthermore, the court held that the “present extreme circumstances caused by COVID-19, justifies the regulations and directives” and that “it is justifiable and reasonable in an open democratic society”.
Acting Judge Brauckmann acknowledged that “the trying times that we live in affect everyone, and although one is sympathetic to the inconvenience that is being experienced, (…), the regulations and directives are there for the good of everyone”. He indicated that by blatantly ignoring the regulations, or acting without proper attention thereto, no favours are being done to the country, or the citizens of the country.
The court imposed a hefty fine on all parties who flouted the regulations without valid permits.
In Ex Parte Van Heerden (case 1079/2020) the Applicant applied to court for leave to, amongst other things, be authorised to attend his grandfather’s funeral in another province during the lockdown period. In order to attend the funeral the Applicant would have to cross provincial borders, in contravention of regulation 11B(1)(a)(iii) issued on 25 March 2020.
The court refused the application, indicating that it would in effect authorise the applicant to break the law under a judicial decree.
From these cases it is clear that court judgements may be harsh should anyone attempt to violate the regulations imposed under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002.
In another developing matter, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, broke lockdown regulations by visiting friends during the lockdown period. President Ramaphosa acted swiftly and disciplined the Minister the day after the infringement came to light, by placing her on two months’ special leave, one of which is unpaid.
It should be noted that all citizens, including essential services providers and high-ranking government officials, are subject to the regulations issued.
It is clear that citizens need to make sure that they read and understand the regulations carefully, and diligently comply with them.
If the need arises for you to act in contravention of the regulations, you should make sure that you acquire a valid permit authorising you to do so.
If you are unsuccessful in acquiring a permit, legal advice should be sought before you take action. In trying times such as these it is better to be safe, than to find yourself in the naughty corner.
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This article does not consitute formal legal advice. The information was correct at the time of publication and is subject to ongoing developments. To stay up to date on court judgements visit www.saflii.org.