With government announcing and introducing a nationwide lockdown in the space of five days, a number of regulatory loopholes and issues have begun to crop up.
Government has since introduced a number of amended or additional regulations to address these issues and provide further clarity on matters that were particularly vague.
BusinessTech looked at these issues in more detail below.
The Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has published amendments to South Africa’s lockdown regulations, clarifying a number of key points for businesses and individuals.
These amendments provide clarity on the following issues:
- South Africans can continue to remotely work from their normal place of residence;
- Businesses should have measures in place for essential maintenance and care – and work done in this regard is considered an essential service. If the minister for trade and industry promulgates regulations in this respect, that should be adhered to;
- The list of essential services has been expanded – and now includes, “critical maintenance services which cannot be delayed for more than 21 days and are essential to resume operations after the lockdown”. Certain call-centres, harvesting and other agricultural activities, certain financial services, and several other business-activities are now allowed;
- Private vehicles shall not carry more than 60% of the licensed capacity, and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the limitation of exposure of persons to Covid-19, are adhered to;
- Restaurants are now included in Annexure D of the regulation, classifying them as closed to the public. Civil society group, Sakeliga noted that this is an opportunity for government to permit restaurants to prepare food for delivery – as was the case even under strict measures imposed in China.
Amended transport rules
With government paying social grants earlier than usual, the Department of Transport has amended the public transport directions under the National State of Disaster.
Under the current lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, public modes of transport are allowed to operate from 05h00 – 09h00 and again from 16h00 – 20h00.
“Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the days social grants would be paid, a number of industry bodies have made representations on the relaxation of hours (in which) public transport vehicles are allowed to operate,” said transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Sunday (29 March).
“Effective from tomorrow, 30 March 2020 until Friday, 3 April 2020, buses and taxis will be permitted to operate from 05h00 until 20h00 in order to cater to the transportation needs of society’s most vulnerable,” said Mbalula.
No walking dogs in security estates and complexes
While not a new regulation, the South African Police Service has clarified that residents in private security estates and complexes that the restrictions on going outside for a jog or to walk their dogs applies to them too.
“Following several enquiries about residents being able to walk or jog within their security estates/complexes. The Regulations also apply to people living within estates/complexes – meaning no walking, jogging or walking of pets within closed estates/complexes is allowed,” it said.
“All estate/complex managers must assist by ensuring that these regulations are enforced with immediate effect. The fundamental purpose of lockdown is to drastically reduce the movement of people in order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Your assistance in this regard will be highly appreciated.”
Hotels to be used for quarantine
The Department of Trade and Industry has gazetted new rules for hotels, effectively exempting them from provisions in the Competition Act.
The DTI said that the purpose of the gazette is to allow the hotel industry to collectively engage with the Department of Health and the Department of Tourism in respect of ‘identifying and providing appropriate facilities for persons placed under quarantine’, as determined by the Department of Health.
The regulations also relax a number of competition rules, allowing industry-wide communication on issues of capacity and the utilisation of facilities for quarantine accommodation.
Banning the export of essential items
The Department of Trade and Industry has also banned the exporting of items which are considered essential for the fighting of the coronavirus pandemic.
These items include:
- Hand sanitiser (alcohol-based);
- A number of medications including Hydroxychloroquine;
- Vaccine injections.
Problems with vague rules
Because the regulations are not as precise as they could have been, there is a danger that members of the SAPS who are required to enforce these regulations will enforce the regulations in an arbitrary and overzealous manner, says Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos.
He added that there is also a danger that unscrupulous and corrupt members of the SAPS will “invent” rules that they will use to extract bribes from unsuspecting members of the public.
“Furthermore, there is a danger that some members of the public will try to exploit uncertainty about the regulations to circumvent them. I fear that some entitled South Africans may lack a sense of solidarity and may try to avoid the inconvenience that inevitably accompanies the lockdown by evading restrictions.
“While the Regulations provide for such individuals to be arrested and prosecuted, this is more effective when there is reasonable legal certainty about what conduct is prohibited and what permitted.”