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 amend the regulations accordingly. This means 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. It is clear from the wording of the judgment 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.
What was also disconcerting to the court was that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had such unfettered power to make decisions which 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.
This is a serious blow to the government, but is only one of several cases currently underway that will continue. The Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association is challenging the ban on cigarette sales in a separate case, and for this reason Judge Davis decided not to rule on this aspect of the lockdown.
For the accounting community, this is good news, says Van Wyk, since it will allow for a rapid return to business. “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.