The civil rights organisation AfriForum in a letter late last night to the Ministers of Health, International Relations and Cooperation, as well as the Police, demanded that a family who are currently being detained in a COVID-19 quarantine camp in Groblersdal, are released to self-isolate and that their wish to be tested may not be denied.
The Nel family were on holiday in Mozambique when the lockdown was announced and returned to South Africa after five weeks of self-isolation. On their arrival at the Lebombo border post, members of the SAPS took them to a quarantine camp in Groblersdal, despite the family’s consultation with officials from the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Mozambique.
The officials at the facility refused to test the family for COVID-19 on their first day at the camp and indicated that testing would only take place on the eleventh day after their arrival. The facility is dilapidated and a health risk for everyone who is put under quarantine there. Wild animals, such as baboons, are also roaming on the premises despite the fact that there are small children present. Furthermore, the family was not provided with necessities such as food, blankets, toilet paper, cleansing agents and towels. Tap water is not fit for consumption and officials only provided them with one bottle of water per day. According to the family the officials have offered to go and buy food and other necessities on their behalf, if they hand over their bank cards and PIN numbers.
“It is immoral that people are being kept in this camp and that officials are simply refusing to test them for the virus. Furthermore, this facility is filthy and infringes on the right to human dignity of anyone who has to stay there. The facility is also contrary to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for quarantine facilities. AfriForum had to get involved in this case – we simply can’t allow these types of abuses of power by government officials,” says Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum.
AfriForum also demanded last week that the threat by Sihle Zikalala, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, that people who test positive for COVID-19 will be forced into quarantine camps regardless of whether they are effectively self-isolating, should be retracted. Zikalala did retract his threat following a lawyer’s letter from AfriForum sent to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, regarding it. The regulations issued by Dlamini-Zuma however still empowers government officials to do exactly what Zikalala threatened to do and AfriForum therefore plans to continue with legal action in this regard.
“Cases like the Nel family once again proves that these national regulations are irrational. It is a violation of the most basic freedoms and dignities of people and amounts to a measure that can under no circumstances be justifiable in any democracy that is governed by the principles of freedom, justice and the rule of law,” Roets concludes.