Liberty Fighters Network, the organisation which previously won a High Court case that declared South Africa’s lockdown regulations to be unconstitutional and invalid, has now argued that the COVID-19 lockdown is legally over as of Wednesday 24 June.
“Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) and Reyno De Beer will be arguing in the High Court today that they believe that since of this morning Wednesday, 24 June 2020, the lockdown regulations are unconstitutional and invalid and that effectively the Lockdown is legally over,” the organisation said.
LFN believes that the government incorrectly lodged an application to appeal the judgement made by the Gauteng High Court on 2 June in the hope of suspending the order of invalidity instead of requesting an extension.
As a result of this, LFN argued that the lockdown regulations are not legally in force anymore as the last day the government had to comply with the ruling by Judge Norman Davis was Tuesday 23 June 2020.
“LFN and De Beer will be going to the High Court this morning to oppose the Application for Leave to Appeal lodged by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to confirm the inevitable, according to them – that the Court, in fact, does not have any authority anymore to extend the period of 14 days and they will be arguing that the application has effectively become moot,” LFN said in a statement.
“The government has failed to make new lockdown regulations to replace the constitutionally invalid Level 3 regulations which ceased at midnight on 23 June 2020, notwithstanding that it had ample opportunity to have done so.”
LFN further argued that South Africans may no longer be arrested or forced to adhere to the lockdown regulations, but smokers and gamblers will still be limited in their activities due to the specific exclusion of tobacco and casinos from the order of invalidity.
“If the Court agrees with us today, this could be the best news South Africans have had since 1994 and definitely a victory for all who had to endure the mass human rights violations of the government the past three months,” LFN said.
“It has become obvious that COVID-19 is here to stay with us and that the so-called spread of the virus is so rampant that we have reached a stage to accept it as part of our lives and time to go back to normal.”
Judgement has been reserved in the government’s application for leave to appeal the High Court ruling, according to a report by EWN.
According to the report, Judge Norman Davis told said he understood the urgency of the decision and would send the relevant parties a ruling electronically.
LFN reportedly argued that Dlamini-Zuma failed to review the regulations within 14 days as mandated by the High Court ruling, despite the country’s alert level being downgraded to level 3.
The government argued that the decision of the High Court should be tested by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
High Court ruling
The South African government announced on 4 June that it would appeal the ruling made by the Gauteng High Court.
“After obtaining legal advice and listening to numerous comments made by members of the legal fraternity in reaction to this judgement, we are of the view that another court might come to another conclusion on the matter,” Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said.
“Cabinet has therefore decided to appeal the North Gauteng High Court decision.”
The government said it will ask that its appeal is heard on an urgent basis so that the country can gain certainty on the regulations.
The original ruling concerned an application that was brought against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs by the Liberty Fighters Network, which contested the validity of the declaration of the National State of Disaster and the regulations related to it.
Judge Norman Davis criticised the “sheer irrationality” of the regulations and found that there were many instances of rules which were not rationally connected to the objectives of slowing down the spread of the coronavirus.
“I am certain, from what I have seen in the papers filed in this matter and from a mere reading of the regulations, even including the alert level 3 regulations, that there are many more instances of sheer irrationality included therein,” Davis said.
“I find that, in an overwhelming number of instances, the Minister has not demonstrated that the limitation of the Constitutional rights already mentioned has been justified in the context of section 36 of the Constitution.”