Summary D. Summary (Analysis, Trends)

South Africa was able to handle the coronavirus in an orderly manner because of an existing legislative framework that seems to be tailor made for a pandemic like the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country had two potential legislative frameworks that it could apply to the pandemic (The Disaster Management Act 2002 or the State of Emergency Act, 1997). After due consideration by cabinet members, the government resolved to declare a state of national disaster and apply the Disaster Management Act to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Disaster Management Act provides a comprehensive framework for the government to follow, during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is exemplified in section 7 of the Disaster Management Act that provides for the content of the national disaster management framework. The national disaster management framework is the bedrock for the regulations and other initiatives that were instituted by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is very high-level government commitment with the President leading the multisectoral response resulting in quick and decisive actions. However, there is the need for more coordination between the national and provincial governments. The City of Johannesburg and Cape Town’s demolition were clearly unsupported by the national government. This fact is depicted by the non-opposition of the application by the Minster of Human Settlement and Cooperative Governance to the cases instituted the provinces. The Minister of Human settlement also instructed the housing development agency to start the process of building permanent structures for the people who were given legal authority by the court to remain in Empolweni. 

The South African judiciary has demonstrated its ability to ensure the continuation of law and order during the pandemic period. This is demonstrated by the expeditious manner in which urgent cases were determined by the court. In addition, to this the court has dispensed with formalities where the interest of justice of the nature of the case demands for this. An example of this can be seen in the application brought by the family of Collins Khosa, the judge stated that ‘It is evident that this process is not the usual one as envisaged by the Rules of Court relating to urgency….I decided to condone all non-compliance because of the nature of the application and the relief sought…’ However, there is the need to ensure some uniformity in the various decisions of the South African courts. There are instances of multiplicity of applications in different courts and at different times dealing with similar subject matter. For instance, in paragraph 8.1 of its decision, the Court in Reyno Dawid De Beer & 2 Ors v The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affair, appears to have suggested that the blanket ban on gatherings is unjustifiable. This is in clear contrast to the position of the court in Muhammed Bin Hassim Mohamed & ors v The President of the Republic of South Africa & Ors

The activities of CSOs and other domestic actors have also put the government in the right directions, for example as a result of multiple pressure and litigation from the children’s sector, the importance of the school nutrition programme in the alleviation of hunger and food poverty for children during the pandemic was emphasized. This effort contributed to the continuation of the school nutrition programme for qualified students during the closure of the schools in July.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures have had more adversarial effects on the poor populations and foreigners in South Africa. Cases of police brutality are recorded in poor neigbourhoods. Foreigners have also been on the receiving ends of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the hardship of the pandemic is felt by citizens and foreigners alike, foreigners are excluded from the social relief packages put in place by the government. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed some of the existing societal ills in South Africa and has led to increase in public demands for accountability. For instance, during the fierce debate on the re-opening of schools, it was revealed that around 3126 schools need to be attended to for water supply. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an effect in shifting the priorities of government. It has led to the prioritization of informal residents to the top of local government agenda. Also, in the wake of the allegations of corruptions and nepotism in the procurement of PPE, the President has directed that henceforth, all government tenders will be made publicly available. This new process is set to outlive the COVID-19 pandemic and it will no doubt ensure improved accountability on the part of government officials.


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