COVID-19 State of Disaster & Lockdown Regulations: Update 11 May 2020
Several ministerial directives issued under Covid-19 lockdown Level 5 have been amended or, in some cases, repealed and replaced. They should be read with the 29 April disaster management regulations on Lockdown Level 4.
- A directive on the management of courts during the Covid-19 State of Disaster was issued on 6 May by the Office of the Chief Justice (repealing and replacing one issued on 7 April). Among other things, it:
- allows a Head of Court to determine how to deal with and dispose of ‘criminal trials already set down for hearing during the … State of Disaster’
- spells out the procedures to be followed when re-enrolling a civil trial removed from the roll during the State of Disaster
- spells out the procedures to be followed when attending to unopposed applications already enrolled for hearing during that period, and
- deals with opposed applications, applications for leave to appeal, appeals, and judicial case flow management.
- The 31 March ministerial directive on curbing the spread of Covid-19 in SA’s courts, their precincts and all other justice service points has been repealed and replaced. According to a media statement on the new directive, among other things, it:
- allows certain criminal trials to be ‘prioritised’, including those involving allegations of corruption, sexual offences, gender-based violence, femicide, serious violent crime, robbery, murder, and any violation of Covid-19 regulations
- requires that, where children are detained in child and youth care centres or correctional facilities, such matters ‘must be brought before the court for consideration of continued detention’
- allows judicial officers to authorise matters on the court roll for teleconference or video conference hearings, including:
- child and spousal maintenance proceedings
- protection orders under the 1998 Domestic Violence Act or 2011 Protection from Harassment Act
- foster care and adoption applications
- and ‘international child abduction cases’
- confirms that services provided by the Offices of the Master of the High Court will include:
- payments to natural guardians, tutors and curators … for and on behalf of minors and persons under curatorship
- processing documentation required for burials, and
- the urgent appointment of curators, and
- limits Legal Aid SA services to matters for which provision is more generally made in the directive, along with telephonic advice.
- The directive issued on 20 March by the Office of the Chief Justice is still in force – dealing with access to court precincts and the use of audio-visual facilities and ‘other electronic communication means’ in specific circumstances.
- The 1998 Medical Schemes Act regulations have been amended to provide for Covid-19 screening, clinically appropriate diagnostic tests, medication, medical management (including hospitalisation and the treatment of complications) and rehabilitation.
- Schedule 2, 3 and 4 substances prescribed for continuous therapy have been excluded from a requirement in terms of which, under normal circumstances, they may not be dispensed for longer than six months. This arrangement will remain in place for 18 months.
Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS)
- According to a ministerial directive issued on 4 May:
- employers with operations closed for up to three months during the Covid-19 lockdown ‘must’ apply on behalf of affected employees for benefits available under the scheme
- TERS benefits are also available to UIF contributors who have been ‘required to take annual leave’ during the lockdown. In such instances, the employer may off-set the TERS benefit received ‘against the amount paid to the employee in respect of annual leave’ – subject to meeting certain conditions.
- The list of essential financial services has been expanded under Lockdown Level 4. According to a ministerial directive issued on 4 May:
- the list now includes tax services conducted by an external service provider or directly by a taxpayer, trader or an employee of a taxpayer or trader in respect of the taxpayer’s or trader’s affairs, but
- only when such services are required to comply with an obligation, or to exercise a right afforded, in terms of a tax Act or the 1964 Customs & Excise Act.
- Four ministerial directives and two Government Gazette notices affecting transport operations have been repealed and replaced with new directives reflecting measures to be taken during Lockdown Level 4 at seaports, by railway operators and by operators of all modes of road passenger transport services.
- Only mining-related air freight services are deemed ‘essential’ under Lockdown Level 4, according to a ministerial directive issued on 4 May, although flights necessary for aircraft maintenance purposes are also permitted.
- In another directive:
- the validity of expired motor vehicle licences and permits was extended, and
- driving licence and vehicle testing centres were authorised to resume operations.
Moving place of residence
- In terms of a ministerial directive issued on 7 May, until 7 June people may relocate to new places of residence and arrange for their household furniture and effects to be transported to their new homes, but only if they:
- signed a new lease agreement before or during the lockdown period,
- or if, in the case of purchasing a property, its transfer occurred before the lockdown.
- On 5 May, the 23 March ministerial directive exempting the banking sector from sections 4 and 5 of the 1998 Competition Act (restrictive horizontal and vertical practices) was amended to include categories of agreements or practices set out in:
- paragraph 3.1 (payment system) when undertaken by banks, and
- paragraph 3.2 (debtor and creditor management) when undertaken by banks and other financial institutions.
- The 26 March ministerial directive was amended on 8 May to:
- exclude the ‘tracking and tracing of persons’
- free electronic communication networks, service licensees and the ‘Internet and digital sector in general’ from an obligation to ‘collaborate’ with or assist the ‘relevant authorities’ and support ‘designated departments’ in their efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, and
- lift the prohibition on:
- price increases, and
- mobile number portability.
- On 5 May, the Independent Communications Authority of SA gazetted amendments to its 6 April notice on ICT. Among other things, for the duration of the State of Disaster and three months after it ends, the amendments exempt:
- television broadcasting service licensees from complying with local content quotas and ‘specific advertising and programming requirements’, and
- sound broadcasting service licensees from complying with specific programming requirements and ‘promises of performance’ (although local content music quota requirements remain in force).
- A ministerial directive issued on 4 May spells out the health and hygiene protocols to be observed by the performing arts sub-sector and related industries, including the producers of commercials, when developing local content ‘for streaming and live-streaming without audiences’. Among other things, the directive
- the maximum number of people allowed on-set or on the ‘shooting floor’
- measures to be taken when catering is provided on-set, and
- cast and crew transport arrangements, and
- requires each production to include a storyline ‘in support of Covid-19 safety measures’.
Local and provincial government
- The 25 March ministerial directive on local and provincial responsibilities during the State of Disaster was amended on 7 May, requiring councils and their committees to prioritise:
- the adoption of integrated development plans
- the provision of ‘critical’ services
- community consultation (using ‘media platforms’ and other ‘non-contact’ methods)
- emergency procurement, and
- key revenue-generating services.
- A ministerial directive issued on 8 May confirmed two media statements on the imminent release on parole of approximately 19 000 sentenced offenders meeting certain strict criteria. This is with the aim of curbing the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities.
- According to the Presidency:
- only ‘low-risk inmates who have passed their minimum detention period or will approach this period in the coming five years’ will qualify, and
- once the necessary rehabilitation and pre-release requirements have been met, the offenders will be placed on parole under ‘community corrections’.
- According to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, consideration is also being given to the release of approximately 5 000 awaiting-trial detainees without the means to post bail.
- According to the Presidency:
- The deadline for public comment on draft regulations released in March has been extended indefinitely. According to a Department of Human Settlements media statement announcing the decision, it was made because, under lockdown, provincial information sessions on the proposed new regulations had to be cancelled.
State Capture Commission of Inquiry
- The Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector now has until the end of February 2021 to complete its work and submit a report, with recommendations, to President Cyril Ramaphosa. The inquiry was declared an essential government service in the Lockdown Level 4 regulations.
Prepared by Pam Saxby
About this blog
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.