The Nelson Mandela Foundation welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that government is consulting over a possible shift to level 3 lockdown for parts of the country at the end of May. We commend the President for acknowledging that mistakes have been made in lockdown enforcement.
A progressive opening up after the lockdown was always going to be more complicated than it was introducing the lockdown. The unprecedented nature of this crisis has given rise to a need for unavoidable improvisation.
What is of paramount importance, as we begin to prepare to move from level 4 to level 3, is that everyone remembers the objective and that the implementation of temporary measures is aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Those who have power entrusted to them must exercise it responsibly and with unswerving respect for the principles of our constitution, human rights and the right to human dignity.
The Foundation has concerns about the extent to which, in recent weeks, the country has seen measures that are arbitrary, officious, petty and inhumane. The Foundation is concerned with the paternalistic nature of many of the regulations, the lack of justification, transparency and accountability as well as the numerous reports of law enforcement humiliating, torturing, assaulting and even killing people. When we allow these to go unchallenged, we invite them to become the norm. Public buy in is necessary for a public health campaign such as this and the more people are pushed into rejecting this norm, the quicker they will reject the lockdown.
The overriding objective of the lockdown at all its levels is the protection of life. We call on those who are regulating the progressive relaxation of the lockdown and those who are enforcing it to remember this objective. Lastly, may we always be mindful that the right to dignity is unqualified in our constitution.