Court rulings and lack of communication feed confusion around South Africa’s lockdown regulations

Business group Sakeliga says that members of the public should obtain proper legal advice for their unique situations before trying to confront gaps and illegalities in the country’s lockdown regulations.

This is especially important in light of wide-spread economic distress and the credibility crisis of the regulations, lack of communication from government, and ongoing legal uncertainties, said Sakeliga chief executive officer Piet le Roux.

“No one should break a legitimate regulation. However, the reality is that the ambiguities in the regulations, court rulings, contradictory ministerial pronouncements and economic distress force people into unclear legal positions, whether they intentionally confront regulations or not.

“Sakeliga therefore emphasises: obtain proper legal advice before trying to challenge or daringly interpret the lockdown regulations, so that you understand the risks of your actions to yourself, your staff, and customers and clients.”

Le Roux highlighted the recent Gauteng High Court case brought by the Liberty Fighters Network in which the court ruled that the country’s lockdown regulations are ‘invalid’ and ‘unconstitutional’.

“It is true that court rulings on this mean that the government only has until 14 July 2020 to correct certain regulations, including unlawful criminalisation clauses.

“One interpretation of the verdict – which our legal advice states is not correct – would be that the criminalisation of certain alcohol and cigarette sales cannot lead to prosecution. Sakeliga warns against this interpretation.

“We have been provided with legal advice that any action in violation of the regulations – whether criminal or not – could have legal consequences, including for example arrest in the case of refusal to execute police instructions.”

Le Roux said that Sakeliga has subsequently written to government, asking it to address the uncertainty following judgements in the LFN case. The group specifically requested that it:

  • Instruct the SAPS that no arrests for violations of certain lockdown regulations relevant to the LFN case may take place;
  • Disclose those new standing instructions in the public interest.

“We emphasise: many of the lockdown regulations are unconstitutional and unreasonable. The actions of some ministers during this Covid-19 period were even harmful, disgraceful and petty, despite efforts by others to protect public health in good faith.

“The unnecessary economic damage of the lockdown, which could have been approached very differently, creates an acute challenge for people wanting to put food on the table.

“Given these factors, it is understandable that people would want to challenge the regulations, but it should not be done without careful consideration of personal legal positions and without personal legal advice,” Le Roux said.

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