In his Sunday night address to the nation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new regulations banning the sale of alcohol and declared that the wearing of masks in public was mandatory…
In a media briefing on Wednesday, Correctional Services and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told South Africans that not wearing a mask in public would be considered a criminal offence. Those in contravention may be fined or could even spend up to six months in prison.
However, this led to much confusion as law experts said that it was not individuals who would be held responsible, but store managers, building owners, employers, drivers and operators of public transport who would be required to enforce regulations.
— eNCA (@eNCA) July 13, 2020
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says people who don’t enforce the mandatory wearing of face masks, will obtain a criminal record if found guilty by the courts.#sabcnews
— SAfm news (@SAfmnews) July 15, 2020
‘The charge will be the contravention of the regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The fines are as per the guidelines of the various chief magistrates across the country; …’ Minister @RonaldLamola #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/f9GSAyLx90
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) July 15, 2020
Masks are mandatory – but who will be held responsible?
In a breakdown of the new regulations on ConstitutionallySpeaking.co.za, University of Cape Town constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos says that “The new regulations still do not criminalise an individual who fails to wear a mask in public.”
Store managers, building owners, employers, drivers & operators of public transport must enforce regulations:
“However, it places an obligation on a driver or operator of any form of public transport, a manager or owner of a building, an employer, and a school principle to ensure the wearing of face masks in the space they have authority over. If these individuals fail to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the wearing of face masks commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment,” says De Vos.
“This means if you refuse to wear a mask in a taxi, a shop or mall, a public building or a school you are exposing the person in control of that space to criminal prosecution and even imprisonment.”
— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) July 14, 2020
Outcry over harsh sentences for non-mask wearers
Twitter users were outraged by the potentially harsh sentences for not wearing a mask, and called on Lamola and the ANC government to put as much energy and action behind crimes like Gender Based Violence (GBV), corruption and the high murder rate in the country.
But they fail to address GBV crimes and effect harsher sentences on the perpetrators. @RonaldLamola how we doing on the death penalty discussion? Mxm @MYANC is so out of touch 😤 https://t.co/uT4bRASJ1d
— Riley McPherson (@RileyMcPherson4) July 15, 2020
@RonaldLamola Sir, with with all due respect can you put your energy on gender base violence crimes, rape, murder. You can pass this message to Bheki Vele as he only come out gun blazing when alcohol is involved. pic.twitter.com/b8oLEPFrYU
— NeneNotLeakes🇿🇦 (@NeneNLeakes) July 16, 2020
Why don’t you lay charges because our tax money is being abused and looted?
— Thighspreader (@ntsekisang) July 16, 2020