COVID-19: Government downplays legal challenges to SA lockdown

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo by REUTERS/Rogan Ward

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo by REUTERS/Rogan Ward

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) THE South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is undeterred by court challenges against restrictive measures it has adopted to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Some legal action has bedevilled the government’s intervention since late March when Ramaphosa imposed a three-week lockdown, which was further expanded by two weeks until the end of April.

The country is still under lockdown but restrictions have been eased to so-called Level 4. The lockdown is to be eased in the coming weeks to Level 3.

Government’s intervention, although largely praised internationally, has faced some resistance locally from a number of individuals, religious bodies, political parties, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and from business organisations.

Most prominently organisations opposed to the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco during the lockdown have been enraged.

Ramaphosa reminded that the lockdown regulations were challenged in the first week by a private citizen from Mpumalanga, who wanted an exemption from the travel prohibition to attend a funeral.

“Some have succeeded in their legal challenges and some have not,” the president said.

“Some had approached the courts on the basis of the urgency of their cases had their urgency arguments dismissed and others have found other avenues for the relief they sought.”

He noted others had subsequently withdrawn their applications following engagement with government.

Ramaphosa downplayed the challenges, saying they were a measure of the extent of democracy in the Southern African nation whose constitution is regarded among the most progressive in the world.

“One of the triumphs of our democracy is that every South African believes the Constitution protects them and that the courts are a fair and impartial arbiter of their interests,” Ramaphosa said.

He said while his government would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action, citizens had a right to approach the courts if aggrieved.

“This is a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law,” Ramaphosa stated.

The president has repeatedly expressed solidarity with citizens whose lives have been impacted by the lockdown.

He has during his tenure won over even his harshest critics because of his easygoing approach.

Ramaphosa thus pledged to uphold the constitution.

“As I told the journalist/s, every South African has a right to approach the courts and even I, as President, could never stand in the way of anybody exercising that right,” he concluded.

Critics accused his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, of being a hardliner whose government flouted the constitution.

– CAJ News

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