Regulations must be clear or else we will lose the battle

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ministers need to be clearer on the interpretation of the rules for each level of the lockdown..Picture: ESA ALEXANDER SundayTimes
Today we enter a new stage of lockdown and what lies in store is largely unknown.

Some people are free to return to work, some sectors of the economy are opening, and there is a slight relaxation of some of the regulations. On the other hand, there is now an after-dark curfew, a measure more suited to military rule during a state of emergency.

Despite a series of government briefings, much of the detail of what is, or is not, allowed during this level of lockdown remains confusing. There are strict rules for workplaces that reopen, employees are encouraged to work from home and some of the most vulnerable such as waitrons and domestic workers still can’t go back to work.

The government expects a surge in Covid-19 infection over the next few weeks and months, and is trying to bring the economy back to life while minimising the spread of the virus. But not all regulations appear to be primarily motivated by this imperative. After all, there is no greater risk of contracting the virus if one walks a dog at noon rather than at dawn.

Then there is the ding-dong over the tobacco ban, where those who favour a nanny state won out and effectively ensured while the state loses out on revenue, blackmarketeers get to handsomely profit.

The curfew is controversial and reportedly was not canvassed with opposition parties and civil society. Members of the cabinet and National Command Council have differed behind the scenes on some measures and a little known committee called the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure is informing planning

Given the track-record of the police and intelligence services, there is room for considerable concern at them informing which freedoms citizens should or should not enjoy.

SA is a constitutional state where liberties should not easily be tinkered with and rationality should inform laws and regulations.

When it begins to seem that some in government seek authoritarian control of the populace rather than being motivated by the fight to defeat Covid-19 then the consensus that is needed to win this battle will shatter with disastrous consequence.


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