25 May 2020

COVID-19 State of Disaster and Lockdown Regulations: Update 25 May 2020

Last week brought a lull in the publication of ministerial directives, with only three gazetted. They affect public passenger transport, motor vehicle licences and permits, and the reopening of mining operations. In addition, two announcements were made about the phased return of learners to school – and students to post-school education and training institutions – under lockdown level three. Both media statements alluded what has since been confirmed by President Cyril Ramaphosa: that the lockdown will be relaxed to level three nationwide on 1 June – but not in identified ‘hotspots’.

Lockdown level three

Detailed regulations are likely to be published this week, along with more ministerial directives. Meanwhile, according to the President:

  • people will be allowed to exercise at any time of day, but not in groups
  • the curfew will be lifted
  • the sale of alcohol will be allowed for home consumption only.
  • Prohibitions to remain in place will include:
    • the sale of tobacco products
    • all gatherings except funerals (limited to 50 attendees)
    • air travel (except locally, for business purposes, which will be phased in)
    • conferences, events, entertainment and sporting activities
    • hairdressing and beauty services.
  • Establishments to remain closed will include:
    • restaurants, bars and taverns (except for food delivery and collection)
    • accommodation.
  • ‘Appropriate restart and phasing in arrangements’ will need to be in place at every workplace.
  • Social distancing, hygiene and health and safety measures will continue to apply.
  • South Africa’s national borders will remain closed, ‘except for the transport of goods and repatriation of nationals’.
  • On 23 May, a Department of Home Affairs media statement confirmed that, subject to meeting certain conditions, South Africans may leave the country ‘only for the following reasons’:
    • work
    • study
    • family reunion
    • to take up permanent residency, or
    • to receive medical attention.

Phased return to teaching and learning at government schools

This will begin on 1 June with ‘grades 7 and 12 and small schools’, according to a 19 May statement. However, a video clip of the media briefing at which this was announced reveals that:

  • A ‘special dispensation’ will apply to reopening private schools, which will be treated as a ‘separate sector’ apparently because of:
    • their size, and, by implication
    • capacity for adhering to social distancing protocols.
  • The term ‘small schools’ refers to:
    •  state schools with multi-grade classes, such as those in ‘deep rural areas’ and on farms, and
    • special needs schools.
  • The approach to be adopted in reopening these schools is still being discussed with affected stakeholders.
  • It is the overcrowded classes at so many larger state schools (especially those in metropolitan areas) that presents the greatest challenge.
  • To ‘split’ these classes (for adequate social distancing) the use of school halls, tents, community centres, ‘rotation’ and ‘platooning’ are being considered.
  • When grade 7 learners return to state schools on 1 June, ‘they will have the whole school to themselves’ (pointing to the possibility that grade 12 learners will return to school later next month).
  • The teachers of other grades will help with the ‘split classes’ envisaged for grades 7 and 12.
  • According to the President, ‘no parent will be forced to send their child to school if they are worried about safety’.

Phased reopening of tertiary education institutions

A statement issued on 23 May outlined what is envisaged. More detail will be provided in ministerial directives.

  • Under lockdown level three, ‘a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences’, but only if ‘they can be safely accommodated and supported’ in line with prescribed health and safety protocols yet to be gazetted. The first ‘cohort’ of returning students will include:
    • final year students expecting to graduate this year, prioritising:
      • those requiring access to laboratories, technical equipment, data and connectivity’, and
      • with access to residence and/or private accommodation
    • students in all years of study requiring clinical training (but only if training platforms adhere to social distancing, health and safety protocols)
    • post-graduate students requiring access to laboratory and other technical equipment, and
  • other categories of students facing ‘extreme difficulties in their home learning environments’ (they will be considered on a case-by-case basis at each institution concerned).
  • Learning sites located in any districts and metros remaining under lockdown level four will remain closed.

Tax relief

  • On 19 May, National Treasury released:
    • a second revised draft Disaster Management Tax Relief Bill
    • an explanatory memorandum, and
    •  a draft notice announcing a proposed increase in the maximum living annuity draw-down percentage.
  • According to the accompanying media statement:
    • this was to assist affected stakeholders with the ‘time critical’ process of preparing payroll and other systems for implementation
    • a third revised draft will be made available before the end of this month, along with a revised draft Disaster Management Tax Relief Administration Bill, and
    • the Bills will be tabled in Parliament ‘later this year’.
  • There was no call for further comment.


  • The validity of licences and permits that have already expired or are likely to expire under lockdown has been extended by a further 90 days, beginning on 1 June. This was announced on 20 May in a ministerial directive repealing the 4 May directive and affecting:
    •  learners’ licences
    • driving licences
    • temporary driving licences
    • motor vehicle licence discs
    • temporary permits
    • roadworthy certificates, and
    • professional driving permits.
  • The validity of ‘motor trade number licences’ was extended by the same directive for ‘a further grace period of six months’, with immediate effect.
  • On 22 May, a separate ministerial directive confirmed that, under lockdown level four:
    •  public passenger intra-provincial, metropolitan and district transport is permitted
    • arrangements for transporting essential services personnel should be in line with operating shifts or work time schedules, and that
    • ‘the use of transport for food delivery services is allowed.


Guidelines on preparing a mandatory code of practice on Covid-19 prevention, mitigation and management at reopened mines were gazetted on 18 May. They set out the procedures to be followed in compiling the code, along with its format, contents and key elements.

See prior regulations and directives here



Prepared by Pam Saxby

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