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SA lockdown is legal, says court

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Bid to hold Dlamini Zuma in contempt of court fails

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma minister for Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs was exonerated of contempt of court on Friday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African

Pretoria – Lockdown regulations are here to stay for now, including that it is compulsory for everyone to wear a mask when in a public space.

On Friday the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, ruled against Reyno de Beer and his group Liberty Fighters Network’s application to have the extension of the National State of Disaster and its regulations declared invalid.

In handing down his judgment, Judge Norman Davis also did not entertain De Beer’s application for the court to hold Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in contempt of court by allegedly not adhering to some of the orders made by him in June last year.

Davis last year ruled in favour of De Beer and his network when he declared several of the level 5 and 4 regulations at the time as being irrational.

Government is set on appealing aspects of that judgment before the Supreme Court of Appeal later this year.

Davis said a lot had changed between then and now.

“The world and its response to the Covid-19 pandemic has mutated from time to time. The factual, regulatory and legal landscapes have also undergone unprecedented changes,” he said.

The judge added that at the time of the launch of the first application in May, South Africa had 12 704 coronavirus cases and 219 reported deaths.

At the time of the launch of the current application in January, the number of reported cases in South Africa has risen to 1 127 579 cases and 30 976 deaths have been reported. This, while the second wave was still on its way.

“The deaths resulting from the pandemic, irrespective of any view any of the parties may hold, are tragic and evoke a deep sense of compassion.”

In responding to De Beer’s arguments that the court should overturn the compulsory wearing of masks, the judge said he had regard to all the expert evidence submitted relating to the wearing of masks and how it should be done in a bid to minimise infections. “I find no basis to declare the compulsory wearing of masks unconstitutional or invalid,” he said.

The judge, however, did frown upon government’s recent closure of most beaches.

“The absurdity or arbitrariness of such blanket closures were illustrated by the extreme measures taken in enforcing compliance.

“The South African National Defence Force was deployed in some areas, even arriving on virtually deserted beaches with machine guns and rocket launchers. Stun-grenades were utilised in dispersing solitary surfers or in assisting in their arrest.”

“But, be that as it may, the beach ban issue” has since been lifted and “thus become moot,” he said.

Each party was ordered to pay its own costs.

The Independent on Saturday