Government dragged to court for extending lockdown
Johannesburg - Another court bid against the Covid19 lockdown has been filed and this time litigators are gunning to put an end to the extensions.
Dear SA, a non-profit and civil rights organisation, has brought an urgent application at the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, intended to end the lockdown altogether.
The organisation sought a ruling that declared the extension of the National State of Disaster unconstitutional and unlawful.
In an affidavit filed two days ago, the organisation’s director, Rob Hutchinson, said the extension was irrational and unconstitutional on grounds that the lockdown no longer had a purpose.
“While it may have been rational to have declared a State of Disaster in March, much has changed since then,” said Hutchinson.
“It is no longer rational to have the declaration in place and it should not have been extended.”
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the National State of Disaster by another month, to December 15, 2020.
He said the extension was intended to “ensure that we can keep all the necessary prevention measures in place”.
Ramaphosa said there were parts of the country experiencing higher than average rates of new infections. Also, he said, the upcoming festive season was an area of concern.
However, he announced some relaxations to the lockdown. Bottle store trading hours went back to normal and international travel was opened up.
The government was yet to file its replying papers to Dear SA’s application.
Hutchinson said the lockdown, which was initially due to end on June 15, could no longer serve the purpose for which it was intended.
It was put in place to “flatten the curve” and buy time for the state to beef up the health-care system, Hutchinson said. “Treatment has improved enormously in that time, with new techniques reducing the mortality rate.
“Moreover, the peak of the so-called Covid-19 wave passed months ago.
“South Africans have been effectively educated on proper sanitising and the steps that should be taken when a person suspects that they may have contracted the virus.
“There is a relatively high level of compliance with recommendations and a low level of law enforcement required,” Hutchinson said.
The problem now was that the government could continue extending the lockdown, Hutchinson said.
“The State of Disaster can be extended ad infinitum by the Minister of Co-operative Governance, without a requirement of Parliamentary oversight.
“This has occurred, and continues to occur, which undermines our constitutional democracy, premised on a genuine separation of powers.
“The State of Disaster grants the executive the power to pass draconian legislation that has derogated the rights of all those who live in South Africa,” Hutchinson concluded.