South Africa’s new lockdown rules face major legal challenges

 ·4 May 2020

The South African government is facing a number of legal challenges around its level 4 lockdown restrictions as it is seen as overreaching on key issues.

Chief among these issues is the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products, with government indicating that the issue will not be referred for mediation as there ‘is nothing to negotiate’.

British American Tobacco, the country’s largest cigarette manufacturer, has given Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, until 10h00 on Monday (4 May) to reverse the decision or face court action, the News24 reports.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association said it will also fight this decision and has begun consultations with its attorneys.

“Illicit cigarettes are coming into the country through our borders. Government is losing billions in what could have been used in the fiscus. The illicit traders are gaining momentum,” said Fita chairperson Sinenhanhla Mnguni.

He added that South Africans should be able to choose if they want to smoke, or not.


President Ramaphosa is also facing a legal challenge over the role of the country’s National Command Council (NCC).

A group of attorneys are arguing that the NCC has effectively displaced constitutional and statutory bodies and is overreaching in establishing restrictions for the country, The Sunday Independent reports.

Writing in a column for the same paper, advocate Vuyani Ngalwana said that clarity is required around the legality and powers of the NCC.

“Under current Covid-19 induced circumstances in South Africa, a body known as the National Command Council (NCC), apparently appointed by the South African president to lead the fight against Covid-19, appears to be determining their implementation,” he said.

“The question that arises is in terms of what constitutional power government policy can be delegated by the president to a body that appears to have no legitimate legislative or constitutional existence.”


Government also faces a legal challenge over the early reopening of the country’s schools.

The Department of Basic Education will be dragged to court on Tuesday (5 May) to prevent it from reopening schools during level 4 of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, the City Press reports.

The case is being brought by the Tebeila Institute for Leadership, Education, Governance and Training and the African Institute for Human Rights and Constitutional Litigation.

“We believe that you can’t keep parents at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while sending innocent children to school in order to save the academic year,” the groups said.

On Thursday,  the Department of Basic Education said it has adjusted its proposed school calendar for 2020, to later in the year due to continued concerns around the coronavirus.

While the department had indicated that children could return to school as early as this week, minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga has said that no date has been set for the return of pupils to schools and that only the ‘schooling sector’ will be open from 4 May.

She added that the final dates for the school calendar will be gazetted once administrative work is completed and cabinet gives its approval.

Read: All South African employees must wear masks at work: labour minister

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