High Court to rule on legal challenge against lockdown
Johannesburg - The legal challenge to the Covid-19-enforced national lockdown - which a Tshwane-based organisation claims is based on incorrect advice and does not consider the country’s socio-economic conditions - is expected to be finalised on Monday.
North Gauteng High Court Judge Norman Davis is expected to deliver his judgment on the Liberty Fighters Network’s (LFN) bid to have the regulations promulgated in terms of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma declared unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.
DMA restrictions are unlawful and unconstitutional because a state of emergency has not been declared where the government is permitted to infringe on the Bill of Rights, according to the network.
The LFN also wants all gatherings that comply with the Regulation of Gatherings Act declared lawful and businesses, services and shops to be allowed to operate if they take reasonable precautions such as the wearing of masks and gloves and using hand sanitisers.
In court papers, LFN president Reyno de Beer said although the government’s good intentions sere meant to protect citizens’ rights, its approach had been irrational.
According to De Beer, the DMA regulations were enacted irrationally, improperly and without considering their impact on rights being sacrificed compared to the rights the government claims it is protecting.
"We respectfully submit that the national state of disaster, also known generally as the ‘lockdown’, declared by Dlamini Zuma in terms of the DMA was irrational and based on incorrect advice and/or reaction to unconfirmed and/or otherwise unreliable international and national medical and health results, not taking our country’s unique socio-economic conditions into consideration,” De Beer said.
The LFN maintained that the limiting of gatherings of more than 50 people was in direct violation with existing legislation and was an attempt to prevent protests against the government for its declaration of the state of national disaster.
It also accuses the government of acting irrationally by using the DMA instead of the International Health Regulations Act to fight Covid-19 as this would ensure that dignity, human rights and fundamental freedom of persons would have been respected.
Cooperative Governance director-general Avril Williamson, on Dlamini Zuma’s behalf, said the LFN’s application has no merit and was not based on the public interest principle.
"This application is frivolous and its objective is to place the lives of millions of South Africans at risk of the Covid-19 infection by frustrating the measures put in place to manage the outbreak,” said Williamson in her answering affidavit filed on Wednesday.
She said the mere fact that the lockdown has created financial constraints does not mean it is unjustifiable, unreasonable and unlawful and the DMA regulations cannot be set aside on the basis that they cause economic hardship because saving lives should take precedence over freedom of movement and earning a living.
Another organisation, the Hola Bon Renaissance (HBR) Foundation, was admitted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case, and asked for the Covid-19 temporary relief announced by the government to continue for six months.
The foundation also wants a committee of experts set up to investigate all the deaths reported to have been due to coronavirus.
HBR Foundation chairperson Preddy Mothopeng said the government has failed to declare as a national disaster diseases that kill more people such as tuberculosis, which is the country’s leading cause of death.