Picture: Markus Winkler/Pixabay
Picture: Markus Winkler/Pixabay

No amount set yet for those caught not wearing a mask

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Dec 29, 2020

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THERE was no fixed amount set to pay as a fine for failing to wear a mask as the magistrates decided based on facts and merits of each case.

This was the word from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola when he was responding to questions during a media briefing by the National Coronavirus Command Council on Tuesday.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said wearing a mask in public was mandatory and anyone failing to do so could be arrested.

Lamola said the Disaster Management Act provided for a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months.

"The fine is determined by a magistrate. We leave it to their guidance in that regard. It is within their jurisdiction," he said.

Lamola explained that magistrates usually undertake to give each other guidance so that there was uniformity through chief magistrates countrywide.

In the previous levels of lockdown, there have been different types of imposition of fines for the same offence.

"They have now developed guidelines guiding themselves what then becomes an appropriate fine falling under the Disaster Management Act. They are engaged in that process," Lamola added.

"I think soon there will be clear guidelines in terms of what they will impose for that particular offence," he said, adding that it would be influenced by inputs from various players in the criminal justice cluster such as the National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS.

"There is no exact amount that we say this will be the amount. They will be able to determine the facts and merits of the matter, and say, for this, they put an amount of this much," Lamola said.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said there was a better way of not seeking a fine by wearing a mask.

"It might end up being six months, not a fine. Don't come close to it," Cele said.

He, however, said SAPS could issue a fine to those who did not want to go to court.

"Don't come to the temptation that you want to know how much it will be, it might be six months," he warned.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said it was important to wear the mask when one was at home and when in public.

"It is useful when you are with people you don't live with in the same household,"she said.

She, however, said failing to wear a mask was an offence, and one could be sent to prison for a period no longer than six months.

"Wearing a mask is not protecting yourself but your loved ones and everybody else. No one is safe until all is safe," she said.

Dlamini Zuma said the government did not want to arrest anyone.

"It does not want to take anyone to prison. Just wear your mask."

She insisted that people should make sure that they wear their masks.

"What is needed is for the people to wear a mask. All these things will fall away, be it a fine or prison," Dlamini Zuma said in reference to questions about fine for not wearing a mask.

"If you wear a mask, the police won't bother you. We ask people to wear a mask and not be bothered by the police," Dlamini Zuma said.

She added that by wearing a mask "you protect yourself and other people."

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