Citizens have right to sue govt over Lockdown, South African president tells

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South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa

As legal challenges to the South African government’s COVID-19 lockdown mount, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday he could not stop anyone taking them to court.

“Since the start of this crisis, a number of people have exercised their right to approach the courts,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter to the nation, adding this was a normal tenet of constitutional democracy.

Ramaphosa chose to address the issue as the country heads into its eighth week of lockdown and voices criticising the government’s measures grow louder.

Although the country had more than 15,500 confirmed cases by Sunday, more than 7,000 have recovered and 264 have died.

Many argue that the health services have had enough time to prepare for the “peak” of infections, expected from July.

Of greatest concern by various critics is the effect the lockdown is having on the economy, which was struggling before the pandemic struck.

One of the most contentious issues among economists, citizens and human rights activists, has been the ban on all alcohol and tobacco sales.

South African Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said earlier this month that more than 80 million dollars had been lost due to illicit trade in the substances during the lockdown period.

While certain elements have been eased, South Africa still has some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the world.

It has earned praise for its rapid response to the pandemic, but also criticism, including that its police and army have used brutal means to enforce regulations.

There have been legal challenges from individuals, religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and from business organizations, Ramaphosa said.

DPA/NAN