As 2021 draws to a close, Sakeliga has sent out two important letters to national and local governments pertaining to Covid-19.
- A letter from our attorneys to the National Department of Health regarding its withdrawal of contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols related to coronavirus Covid-19.
- A letter to all mayors, municipal managers, and local law-enforcement decision-makers advising them to shield their towns and local economies from lockdown harms.
1) Letter to the Department of Health
Our attorney’s letter to the Department of Health is a response to the withdrawal on 28 December 2021 of the Revised Contact Tracing, Quarantine and Isolation Protocols Related to Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic issued on 23 December 2021. Our understanding is that the revised protocols had been published on receipt of the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (MAC), which advised, among other things, reduced quarantine and self-isolation periods and the elimination of the contact tracing requirement on the various departments of health in the country.
Importantly, the revised protocols recognised the changes in the virulence of the latest variant of the virus, the positive effects of immunity (either natural or vaccine-based), the fact that severe cases have not overrun hospitals, and the toll that quarantine and self-isolation have had on government capacity and service delivery, the economy, and society at large.
Sakeliga is concerned by the Department’s sudden and unsubstantiated about-face on the revised protocols. It is a shift in policy which itself lacks transparency, is unclear about the new submissions process, and maintains policies that are doing great harm.
In considering submissions, Sakeliga requires from the Department:
- clarity and transparency on the submission process,
- a copy of the MAC report to the Minister and Department and all expert opinions and reports received and considered by the MAC in preparation of their report, and
- all expert opinions, reports and submissions received in response to the revised protocol of 23 December 2021, which the Department and Minister considered before withdrawing the revised policy on 28 December.
Sakeliga has requested a response from the Minister by 6 January 2022.
2) Letter to municipalities regarding lockdown rules
Sakeliga CEO Piet le Roux’s letter to mayors, municipal managers and local law-enforcement officials comes ahead of New Year’s celebrations and in the wake of some municipalities recently enforcing the harmful state curfew rules through arrests by municipal police using municipal resources.
In his letter, Le Roux advises that the national government’s lockdown agenda is not and should not be the highest priority of municipal management. Municipalities need not police and enforce harmful lockdown and curfew rules, diverting precious manpower and resources away from real crime and other local challenges.
Sakeliga agrees with the growing chorus of medical experts including Professor Shabir Madhi that there is today no justification for maintaining a state of disaster regarding Covid-19.
Le Roux made an appeal to municipal managers: “Given the unjustified and unsustainable nature of National Government’s state of disaster, the continuing harms that spring from it, and the very real problems your communities face, I appeal to you to do everything legitimately within your power to restore normality.”
The letter argues that exercising discretion regarding municipal policing is an effective way to restore normality, and lists three options for consideration by municipal managers:
- Insist on sticking to the municipality’s existing policing plan and priorities which are unlikely to have adopted any lockdown policies – According to Section 64C(2)(g) of the SAPS Act, municipal police services determine their own policing priorities.
- Ensure that law-enforcement officers refrain from policing lockdown “infringements” in the absence of a co-operative agreement having been reached with the SAPS – Section 64C(2)(g) of the SAPS Act stipulates that any policing of crime, i.e. national offences, requires co-operation with the SAPS and that prioritising any policing function requires an annually renewed co-operative agreement with the SAPS.
- Focus on matters of pressing community needs in day-to-day municipal management activities rather than policing National Government’s lockdown instructions – Section 64C(2) of the SAPS Act stipulates that day-to-day control of the municipal police service lies with the executive head of the municipal service, subject inter alia to certain directives of the CEO of the municipality.
The letter encourages municipal authorities that they can “greatly influence what National Government’s lockdown policies mean in practice” by exercising wise judgement and discretion, stewarding resources carefully, and prioritising their own local agendas and policing priorities.
Chief Economist: Sakeliga
Cell: 084 447 1232
Piet le Roux
Cell: 082 616 9501