A group calling itself Liberty Fighters Network has won a major challenge against the government’s lockdown regulations after it brought an urgent case before the Pretoria High Court.
Judge Davis declared the lockdown regulations “irrational and unconstitutional” and gave government 14 days to comply with the order and ensure that the regulations are drafted in line with the Bill of Rights. This will ensure that the regulations not only save lives but also our dignity, equality, and freedoms.
In our view this should mean that virtually all businesses will be able to return to normal operations, subject to sanitary measures and social distancing.
The SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) supports the ruling handed down on Tuesday 2 June 2020 by Judge Davis of the Pretoria High Court, says Saiba CEO Nicolaas van Wyk.
“Government’s main priority was to save lives but this cannot be at the expense of livelihoods or making matters worse for people with other types of diseases. That is why the judgment declared that the lockdown regulations were irrational, and in some instances bizarre – for example, family members not being allowed to visit a sick relative in hospital, yet up to 50 people being allowed to gather for the person’s funeral in the event of their death”.
Says van Wyk: “We have been calling for a lifting in the lockdown for several weeks because – though we were initially supportive of President Ramaphosa’s hard lockdown due to the available scientific evidence – we started to see that more people would likely die from a collapsed economy than from the virus. We have to be sensible about lifting the lockdown and maintain strict social distancing and other measures already in place, but this court victory will probably end up being the turning point in the long road to recovery, and accountants have never been more vital to the economic health of the country.
“We have seen abundant evidence of this during the Covid-19 crisis, where accountants were called on to help their clients navigate the legal and documentary requirements for UIF and business funding relief. Now the focus is shifting towards helping clients on the road to recovery, which is likely to be just as challenging.
”What saves lives is economic prosperity,” says van Wyk. “We therefore welcome the Pretoria High Court’s decision to declare the lockdown regulations irrational and unconstitutional so that the economy can start to recover.”
The court also found that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, had unfettered power to make decisions that curtail the right of South Africans to earn a living, travel and trade. The regulations in many instances do not advance the stated goal of curtailing the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the use of the National Disaster Management Act as a blunt instrument to achieve these aims was misplaced. The court found that the Act was intended for other purposes, such as a localised flood, where the army could be called on to help with evacuation efforts.
“Accountants will be needed more than ever in assisting their clients with their recovery plans and in ensuring that the SA economy gets back to normal as rapidly as possible. It goes without saying that serious damage has been inflicted on the economy by the lockdown, but as accountants we now have some legal certainty as to the limitations of government power, and can now prepare to assist in the economic recovery phase,” says van Wyk.
To assist in the recovery, Saiba is reaching out to all industry bodies representing small businesses, from hairdressers to spaza shops, to ensure they now have access to pro bono accounting work so that they can get their businesses back on track. “We have asked all our members to commit to R10 000 of free consultation services to struggling SMEs and expect to generate a relief fund to the value of R45 million of pro bono accounting work,” says van Wyk.