State refuses to test residents of quarantine camp

AfriForum arranged today for a team that offers medical services to visit the appalling Zithabeseni quarantine camp close to Groblersdal in order for the approximately 107 residents – who haven’t been tested for COVID-19 by the state – to be tested at own cost. Not only was the private medical team refused entrance to the premises, but the SAPS also called in backup to ensure the medical team won’t be able to return.

This follows after the government informed residents they wouldn’t be tested by the state for COVID-19 at this stage and that they would be detained in the quarantine camp, regardless of the fact that they didn’t know whether they have the virus. They are also not allowed to self-isolate at home of have themselves tested at their own cost.

AfriForum is assisting residents who are being held in the camp against their will. Among these residents are Dr Leon Nel, his wife Melanie and their two children. They were brought here after being in Mozambique for vacation recently where they were in self-isolation for five weeks. While being in self-isolation they were also in consultation with officials from the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Mozambique.

Dr Nel, a veterinarian, said in a telephonic interview that the facilities at the camp were not up to standard and that he feared his family could fall very ill while staying there. He also supplied AfriForum with photos and video footage.

AfriForum consequently directed an urgent letter to the ministers of Health and of International Relations and Cooperation about the appalling circumstances under which the residents of this camp are forced to live. The civil rights organisation also demanded that the SAPS should allow the family to be tested for the virus so they could be released and isolate themselves if necessary.

“This is a shocking violation of people’s basic liberties. These people are for all practical purposes captives. Not only does the facility not comply with the necessary standards as set out by the WHO, but they are also being held there against their will – despite the fact that they haven’t been tested for COVID-19. Added to that, they are now being told they aren’t allowed to be tested. It is a draconic infringement of human rights that AfriForum will fight in court,” says Ernst Roets, AfriForum’s Head of Policy and Action.

AfriForum has already consulted with its legal team and the case has been placed on the court roll of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to be heard on Wednesday, 6 May 2020.

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