The civil rights organisation AfriForum won the case regarding the Department of Health’s COVID-19 quarantine camp in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today. The court ruled that the camp where more than a 100 people are currently kept should be closed immediately.
Among the people who were detained in the camp is the Nel family who were on holiday in Mozambique when the lockdown was announced. The family returned to South Africa after five weeks of self-isolation in Mozambique. On their arrival at the Lebombo border post, members of the SAPS took them to the Zithabeseni quarantine camp near Groblersdal, despite the family’s consultation with officials from the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Mozambique. The Nel family and the other detainees were finally tested for COVID-19 eight days after their arrival at the quarantine camp.
AfriForum’s court application follows after the government informed residents they would be detained in the quarantine camp for 14 days, despite them not knowing if they had been infected with the virus. Government also denied these people self-isolation at home or to have themselves tested at their own cost.
AfriForum arranged on 3 May 2020 for a team of medical practitioners to visit the appalling quarantine camp and to test the approximately 107 residents – whom the state has not yet tested for COVID-19 – at their own cost. Not only was the private medical team refused entry, but the SAPS also called in backup to ensure that the medical team won’t return.
“AfriForum will not tolerate such abuses of power by government officials. It is immoral that people are detained in such camps and that officials refused to test them for such a long time. It is a blatant violation of people’s basic freedoms. These people were prisoners for all intents and purposes. The facility not only violated the required WHO standards, but the people were also kept there against their will,” says Monique Taute, Manager of AfriForum’s Campaigns division.
“These cases prove that the national regulations – which allow the government to force people into quarantine camps, regardless of whether they can effectively self-isolate – are irrational. It is a violation of the most basic freedoms and dignities of people and amounts to measures that can under no circumstances be justifiable in any democracy,” says Taute.