Politicians Defy COVID-19 Regulations

By Pinky Khoabane

HAVING declared a national state of disaster on 15 March 2002, “after consulting the relevant Cabinet Ministers”, Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma issued Regulations “regarding the steps necessary to prevent or minimise the COVID-19 pandemic”. Regulations, under Government Gazette No. 43107 dated 18 March 2020 are here.

During the past weekend, politicians have managed to expose their absolute ignorance and the undermining of these Regulations, and at times, a demonstration of sheer recklessness which put the lives of citizens at risk. 

Ministerial Press Conferences

Inter-ministerial press conferences were held following the discovery of reportedly confirmed cases of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) in South Africa. 

The Ministers themselves were crammed at the head table defying the guidelines on social distancing. Some were coughing, some even in the hand-held microphone they were sharing. 

Journalists were also crammed in the conference rooms. 

In today’s world of technology, calling press conferences in times of a disaster like this one, should not happen at all. 

Premier Makhura Distributes Soap in Diepsloot

This past weekend, Gauteng’s Premier David Makhura, together with the so-called activist Yusuf Abramjee, followed by a bevy of volunteers – clad in branded t-shirts, hand gloves and masks – gathered at the informal settlement of Diepsloot to distribute soap. Interestingly, they were the only ones protecting themselves from the virus. This they said, was part of their contribution in the fight against the Corona Virus. But was this reckless action helping in the fight against the virus of simply spreading it?

What regulations were broken here?

  • Where the regulations call for self isolation, social distancing and gatherings of less than 100 people at a time, Makhura and company, mobilised the community to a gathering which could easily have been over 100. 
  • There was no social distancing and if they’d thought through what they were doing instead of simply seeking the PR and television cameras that followed them, they would not have undertaken this event. 
  • According to Regulation 11 (1) (a) If you should convene a gathering of more than 100 persons you may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months on conviction. Known for his love for publicity, Abramjee ensured that this event was well publicised before it happened. The police should have been on standby at the event to order Makhura and Company to halt the gathering and if they refused, arrested them. This did not happen. 

Minister Lindiwe Zulu

On Saturday, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, posted a video walking in the streets on social media: “Stay at home if you can, Im finding it difficult to stay at home. Virus just go away. Leave us alone, we have a life to live”. 

She later apologised for the video: “My statement does not in any way seek to undermine the severity of the virus. I wish to reiterate my commitment to the guidelines and safety precautions as prescribed by President Cyril Ramaphosa,” 

Reverend Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) tests for the Corona Virus

Yesterday, Reverend Meshoe of the ACDP revealed on Twitter that he had been tested for the Corona Virus having been in contact with 5 people who have since tested positive for the virus. This is a positive step. What is concerning however is the message that the Reverent promotes about the virus that it can be “seen” or detected by one’s physical appearance. It is highly irresponsible. 

Even though I have no symptoms of #Covid_19SA, I decided to be tested this afternoon. The officials that came were very professional & respectful. After the testing one of them said, “you don’t look like you have the virus, you look strong & healthy for your age.” PTL

Following Reverent Meshoe’s posts, the Presidency issued a statement:

“The Presidency welcomes the announcement by the Rev Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, that he has been tested for the coronavirus, COVID-19.

“Rev Meshoe was among leaders of political parties represented in Parliament who met President Ramaphosa in Cape Town on Tuesday, 17 March 2020.

“Rev Meshoe has since confirmed publicly that in the days before the meeting with the President and therefore before the prohibition of public gatherings numbering more than 100 people, he had participated in a religious gathering in the Free State where five international guests subsequently tested positive for the virus”…..

 “The Presidency welcomes Rev Meshoe’s adherence to the testing protocol and wishes him well as he awaits his results,” this is fantastic as we ought to all observe the Corona Virus regulations. 

The President’s statement continues: “The President himself is in good health and is observing the announced protocols as stringently as he can while performing his duties.

“At this point in time there is no cause for concern about the President’s health or reason for the President to be tested. To the best of the President’s knowledge, no person with whom he has recently had contact – including Rev Meshoe – has symptoms of or tested positive for the virus”.

This contradicts the earlier assertion by the Presidency that the President is “observing announced protocols as stringently as he can” because if he was, he would have gone for testing himself having been in contact with Rev Meshoe who has been in contact with people who have tested positive for the disease. In fact, all political leaders who met President Ramaphosa in the presence of Rev Meshoe in Cape Town on Tuesday, 17 March 2020, ought to have gone for testing according to Regulation 4(1), which states:

“No person who has been (1) clinically confirmed as having COVID-19, (2) or suspected of having contracted COVID-19, (3) or who has been in contact with a person who is a carrier of COVID–19, may refuse consent to an enforcement officer for submission to a medical examination, including the taking of any bodily sample by a person authorised in law to do so, admission to a health establishment or a quarantine or isolation site, or submission to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine or isolation in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

Here’s the President’s full statement

The President seems to argue that because Rev Meshoe has as yet not been diagnosed as infected by the Corona Virus, he (the President) has no obligation to be tested. Im not a lawyer but my layman’s understanding of the Regulations is that we must immediately test on discovering that someone we were in contact with was in contact with others who have contracted the virus. 

In a country of lawlessness that we live in, where pastors publicly defy the regulations which seek a pandemic of global proportions, without any repercussions from law enforcement agencies, we can ill afford political leaders who do not adhere to the regulations. The count of people infected with the CoronaVirus is at 402 on Monday 23rd March 2020 and it is rising. 

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