April 21, 2020
THE HIGH COURT’S GRAVE DECISION
Karel Van Heerden, a local Mpumalanga man, approached the High Court in an attempt to get permission to travel across to the Eastern Cape. He had received a telephone call early on Friday informing him of his grandfather’s death, and in desperation to attend the funeral and support his mother in these trying times, he made an urgent application to the High Court. What the applicant sought was an exemption from the rules and regulations of the lockdown, which state that people who are not essential employees may not move between districts or provinces and must be confined to their place of residence at all times in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The decision to restrict movement amid the COVID-19 pandemic was made in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, which as the name suggests, is an extremely serious and important piece of legislation in our current circumstances. The COVID-19 virus has a reach encompassing the entire globe, and a grip on South Africa that can, if left unchecked, bring our country to its knees. In the face of such a formidable and invisible threat, unprecedented measures need to be taken for the protection of our citizens.
It is in light of this,that acting Judge Roelofse made his judgment. The acting judge conveyed his deepest sympathy and sorrow in rejecting this application stating the following: “The circumstances of this application are extremely upsetting.It shows in the crudest manner the crude effects of the final lock down Regulations upon a family.”
Judge Roelofse went on to describe that although he had “extreme sympathy for the applicant”, he could not grant the application as doing so would be to allow the applicant to break the law, which no court could do, no matter how deserving and that should he grant the application, he would be exposing the population to unnecessary risk and even death. This is a vital judgement to consider going forward into this national lockdown as it is an indication of the seriousness of the measures that need to be taken in order to loosen the grip this horrific virus has on our country.