South Africa under lockdown

April 1st, 2020

On 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa, delivered a statement on escalation of measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. In this statement, President Ramaphosa detailed how South Africa will be on a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on 26 March.

How does this lockdown affect the legal profession?

During the statement, President Ramaphosa reiterated the fact that the most effective way to prevent infection and the spread of the virus is through basic changes in individual behaviour and hygiene. This includes –

  • washing hands frequently with hand sanitizers and soap for at least 20 seconds;
  • covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow; and
  • avoiding contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

President Ramaphosa noted that: ‘Everyone must do everything within their means to avoid contact with other people. Staying at home, avoiding public places and cancelling all social activities is the preferred best defense against the virus. … Our fundamental task at this moment is to contain the spread of the disease. I am concerned that a rapid rise in infections will stretch our health services beyond what we can manage, and many people will not be able to access the care they need.’

The nationwide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 and will entail the following:

From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home. The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: Health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic. It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products (to view the rest of the speech, visit

On 17 March Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, issued a Directive in terms s 8(3)(b) of the Superior Courts Act 10 of 2013 on how the courts will operate in view of the COVID-19 epidemic. Courts are to remain open as they are an essential service.

On 24 March Chief Justice Mogoeng issued another Directive for the delegation of authority in terms s 8(3) of the Superior Court Act. In this Directive the Chief Justice stated that the lockdown of the republic made it necessary to revisit the Directives that were issued. Chief Justice Mogoeng delegated his authority to all heads of court in the Superior Courts and magistrate’s/lower courts to issue Directives as this would enable access to courts in relation to any urgent matter, bail applications, maintenance and domestic violence related matters and cases involving children issues.

The Chief Justice noted that even in the case of the state of emergency, s 37(3) of the Constitution empowers the courts to pronounce on the validity of the declaration of the state of emergency and related matters. He added: ‘Courts, therefore, have to stay open in case members of the public want to bring one challenge or another in relation to the constitutionality or the validity of the measures being implemented.’

Keep a look out for up-to-date information on the De Rebus website and the Law Society of South Africa’s website during the lockdown period.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (April) DR 3.

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