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.



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Masks are mandatory – but who will be held responsible?

In a breakdown of the new regulations on, 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.”

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.

WATCH: Ranting Clicks customer refuses to wear a mask

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