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‘I wanted to be in the shade’

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Dubious excuses for breaking lockdown rules.

Durban – With a state of disaster declared in the country and only essential services allowed to continue, some restless citizens have given dubious excuses for breaking the lockdown rules, which has resulted in their arrest.

While Police Minister Bheki Cele lauded the dip in serious and violent crimes since the start of the lockdown, he expressed disappointed at the high number of violators.

Last week, Cele said 2298 people had been arrested for breaking the lockdown rules on March 31 alone.

Experts said people ventured from their homes either because being housebound had become unbearable, they were ignorant of the Covid-19 dangers, or had elected to act in defiance of the rules.

An attorney was arrested in Durban North at 11pm on Tuesday. His excuse for being out was apparently that he had had a meeting with a client at that time. He was unable to produce an essential services permit.

The attorney was released on bail the next day.

Last week, at around 1am, a man told police at a roadblock that he needed to drink alcohol and was heading to the home of a bottle store owner, also in Durban North, to make a purchase.

The man was arrested and later, the SAPS’ crime intelligence unit arrested the bottle store owner.

For a KwaMashu man, the heat was unbearable, so he decided to wander from his home. When police came across him, he told them he wanted to be in the shade of a tree.

Psychologist Guru Kistnasamy said people were responding in different ways to the order to remain at home, the first such restriction in the country. He said many were compliant while others ventured out to socialise and for other reasons.

“Socialising is a basic human need. Many people are now separated from their families. There must be a longing to see parents, children, grandchildren and siblings. From a cultural and religious perspective, it’s a norm for people to gather in groups or crowds at functions such as weddings, prayers, funerals, etc. People look forward to these gatherings,” said Kistnasamy.

Rakhi Beekrum, a counselling psychologist, said being cooped up at home was challenging, even for those who had healthy family relationships. It was more difficult for those who had conflictual relationships.

“Under normal circumstances, those who are unhappy at home or in marriage, can escape temporarily to work or other social settings. However, this is not possible during the lockdown, and it makes things even more difficult.”

Beekrum said those who broke the lockdown rules did not acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic or had an “optimism bias” – a view that “something will not happen to them”.

“People who do not personally know anyone affected by Covid-19 may think that it is unlikely to affect them.”

Beekrum said in any situation, there would always be those who did not follow rules, either through ignorance, disrespect or defiance. “What is important is that the law should apply to everyone.”

Recently, nine people in the legal profession, including four advocates, one of whom had been an acting judge, failed to adhere to the lockdown regulations when representing clients in an “urgent” matter in the Mpumalanga High Court.

They failed to produce their essential work permits. Some of them even crossed provinces by travelling from Gauteng to the court in Mpumalanga. The judge took umbrage at their alleged acts of defiance, and didn’t let them off easily.

When handing down judgment in the matter, he ruled that the nine were not entitled to fees for their day’s work, and those who had travelled long distances should not be compensated for that either. He also referred their actions to their respective legal controlling bodies.

Sunday Tribune