By Marnus Kamfer
A person with a valid permit to travel during the lockdown is pulled over by the SAPS. They insist on seeing the driver’s permit, which he produces immediately. Not satisfied, the officer wants to search the vehicle. The driver has nothing to hide and gives permission. The officer searches the vehicle but does not find anything he may use to accuse the driver of. He does, however, find an old pair of kudu horns the driver uses for making ram’s horn wind instruments. Obviously frustrated, the officer scratches his head for a moment and then decides to arrest the driver for being in possession of “ivory”.
During the same time a man with his family goes for a walk 400 meters from his home within the time slot permitted (06:00 to 09:00). Suddenly his little daughter of about two years breaks away and runs on to the beach, followed by her dad to stop her. He is arrested for doing so.
More recently a video clip went viral on social media showing what looks like law enforcement officers trying to arrest a toddler who has run out of a residential complex.
I am astonished. And these are only a few of the recent incidents that have made one’s hair stand on end. It creates the impression that law enforcement officers are power-drunk and apparently either refuse to read the regulations themselves or are totally ignorant about the regulations.
The question now arises as to what I may be arrested for in terms of the present regulations.
The offences and sanctions of these regulations are dealt with in regulations 14 and 31 of the Disaster Management Act for level 4. Regulation 14 provides that should any person on any platform, including social media, spread false or misleading information regarding COVID-19, the COVID-19 infection status of any person or any measure taken by the government to address the pandemic, such person commits an offence and is liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to six months. So, spreading fake news could result in imprisonment.
It also is an offence if a person without authorisation distributes or wrongly deals with any information on the COVID-19 tracing database (containing information on people who may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19). Furthermore, it is an offence not to obey requests by the Director-General of Health to provide applicable information of persons who may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Apart from a fine, these offences could result in your spending six months behind bars.
Any person involved in an unlawful gathering or who hinders or impedes a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties may also be arrested, and it is an offence to leave your home between 20:00 and 05:00 without a valid reason or to cross provincial, metropolitan or district borders.
During level 4, no person may be evicted from his or her place of residence unless in terms of a court order. Regulation 24 provides that venues such as holiday resorts, casinos and night clubs must stay closed. Offenders therefore may be subject to criminal prosecution. Selling and/or distributing liquor and tobacco products is a punishable offence for which you may also be fined or imprisoned for six months. The same goes for shops selling non-permissible products.
You may not be arrested for not wearing a mask. Businesses or shops who fail to make hand sanitiser available, do not ensure that a certain distance is maintained or fail to apply adequate access control may not be prosecuted criminally. Where employers fail to provide employees with hand sanitiser or to put a COVID-19-plan in place, this too is not classified as an offence.
Should a person be prosecuted in such cases, the authority concerned could face civil claims.
Visit www.afriforum.co.za for more COVID-19 news.