South Africa: Justice puts pressure on Cyril Ramaphosa

Hailed yesterday and now on the hot seat for his management of the coronavirus crisis, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government will have to quickly rectify the situation, or even back off on certain measures in the context of the confinement imposed until then. In fact, the South African justice system ruled on Tuesday June 2: “The measures promulgated by the Minister of Cooperation and Traditional Affairs”, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, “are declared unconstitutional and invalid,” said a judge in Pretoria. , contacted by NGOs and a third party. However, the magistrate suspended the application of his decision for two weeks in order to give the government time to “review, amend and republish” the measures it considers to be against the law.

Read also Covid-19: the double national and continental challenge of Cyril Ramaphosa

Anti-Covid measures deemed to be the strictest

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 27 ordered his 57 million fellow citizens containment to slow the spread of Covid-19, which to date has infected more than 35,000 people and killed more than 700 between them.

If it has slowed the progression of the disease, this measure has also put the economy of the country, already in recession, in slowdown and has considerably limited the freedom of movement of the population.

The Head of State has gradually relaxed this strict regime. The country thus went on Monday to health alert level 3 – on a scale of 5 – which notably authorizes the gradual restart of almost all sectors of the economy. Its cautious approach has drawn many critics, both from its political opponents and from ordinary citizens who deem it dangerous for the survival of the economy and individual freedoms.

In the judgment rendered Tuesday, the magistrate estimated that a whole series of restrictions imposed on the citizens, in particular to attend the funerals or to make sport, were “not rationally justified by the objective of slowing down or limiting the rate of virus infection “.

Read also South Africa: a ban on the sale of bad tobacco

Justice could get carried away

In a brief press release, the government has for the time being merely “taken note” of the court decision. In the meantime, it is on another front that he will have to react quickly, because justice could get carried away. The group British American Tobacco (BAT) announced Friday that it had seized the South African courts to challenge the ban on tobacco sales imposed by the government as part of its measures against the new coronavirus. By announcing an easing last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa lifted the ban on alcohol sales, but maintained that of cigarettes “because of the health risks associated with smoking”.

The move angered tobacco industry and traders, who have been negotiating a green light for weeks to resume operations. Number 1 in the South African market, the local subsidiary of the giant BAT (BATSA) brought the case to justice on Friday. “Given the situation and the lack of response, despite our requests from the government, we are taking urgent legal action,” said one of its officials, Johnny Moloto, in a statement.

“We owe it to our consumers, customers and employees to do everything in our power to protect the legal tobacco market in South Africa and to quickly end the prohibition against our products,” a continued the leader. BATSA holds 78% of the South African cigarette market and has contributed 13 billion rand (670 million euros) to the state budget through taxes.

The group’s lawsuit has received support from other producers, sellers and smokers’ associations, who say the ban is fueling juicy smuggling.

Read also Africa facing Covid-19: the unlivable confinement

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