Picture: Succo/Pixabay
Picture: Succo/Pixabay

AfriForum challenges forced quarantine

By BALDWIN NDABA Time of article published May 20, 2020

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Johannesburg - The government’s plans to keep Covid-19 patients in state facilities is facing another court challenge.

Lobby group AfriForum has lodged another high court application to compel Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to block the provincial government from implementing the forced quarantine of Covid-19 patients.

It said that a newspaper report had suggested that the Eastern Cape government planned to place new patients in quarantine after the surge in infections in that province.

AfriForum filed an urgent application in the Northern Gauteng High Count in Pretoria last Friday to have the regulation declared invalid.

The new application allegedly followed a visit by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize to the Eastern Cape.

A local newspaper reported at the time that Mkhize and Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba had suggested that they intended to keep new Covid-19 patients in state facilities, including those who were asymptomatic.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala had some weeks ago said the province intended to implement the forced quarantine, but this had since been withdrawn.

AfriForum head of campaigns, Monique Taute, said these regulations were aimed at putting everyone who tested positive for Covid-19 under compulsory state quarantine.

“AfriForum’s application is based on the fact that these regulations are, according to the organisation, unconstitutional, illegal and irrational.

“The regulations determine, among others, that everyone who tests positive for Covid-19 - regardless of whether they show any symptoms - will soon be put in the government’s isolation facilities.

“These regulations give the state the power to force people without their permission into quarantine - even under circumstances where the person may be able to effectively self-isolate. This gives law enforcers and the state too much power under the guise of combating the spread of the virus,” Taute said.

In its application, AfriForum argued that it would be irrational to put people under quarantine when they could effectively self-isolate. The lobby group said this placed an unnecessary burden on already limited state resources - and may lead to people refusing to get tested for fear of compulsory state quarantine.

“If people who test positive for the virus and who can self-isolate effectively are, however, forced into state facilities, it amounts to not only a violation of these people’s fundamental rights, but may in future have far-reaching implications for all citizens’ rights.

“Furthermore, the Zithabiseni quarantine camp and the government’s actions in response to this issue are clear proof that they do not have the capability to manage such camps responsibly,” Taute said.

Earlier this month, the High Court in Pretoria ruled in favour of AfriForum after more than a 100 people were kept at Zithabiseni in Mpumalanga under what they said were deplorable conditions without being tested for Covid-19.

The detainees - who have since been released - were kept there after the government said they could not test the detainees, but refused for them to be tested by private medical services either.

“The moment the state starts violating people’s basic rights in terms of dignity, freedom of movement and security of person, it becomes easier to justify these violations in future. Even the UN recently expressed its concerns about the South African government’s toxic lockdown regulations. With this court case and with our international campaign (including a complaint to the UN), AfriForum is fighting for the preservation of the fundamental rights of everyone in the country,” Taute said. A date has yet to be set for the new application.

Co-operative Governance ministry spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali did not respond to a request for comment.

Politicial Bureau

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za 

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