DearSA attorneys Hurter Spies this week sent a letter [view below] to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asking her to provide reasons why she extended the lockdown earlier this month and to give an undertaking no further extensions will be given.
She has also been asked to support her reasons with documents and expert evidence.
The minister has been given until 30 October 2020 to reply, failing which DearSA says it will approach the High Court for relief.
DearSA has run several public participation campaigns showing an overwhelming majority are against any further lockdowns.
The letter to the minister says DearSA believes that the extension published on 14 October 2020 “is irrational, unlawful, unreasonable, and therefore reviewable.”
Says DearSA project leader Rob Hutchinson: “After seven months of lockdown we now have a better understanding of the risks of Covid, and the best evidence tells us that further lockdowns will not materially impact the spread of the virus, but will do far more damage to the livelihoods of South Africans who have suffered a loss of income or jobs. Given the massive response to our public campaigns around various aspects of the lockdown, we are obligated to act in the public interest.”
The letter to the minister spells out why her decision to extend the lockdown is irrational:
- The Covid-19 infection rate peaked several months ago, and the additional facilities provided by the health system to cope with the expected surge in traffic have been closed because the “wave has passed”. It is irrational to suggest that the healthcare system is still being prepared for a peak.
- SA has conducted about 4.5 million tests is among the world leaders in tracking and tracing the spread of the disease.
- Education on sanitisation and social distancing has been successful, with high levels of compliance. The lowering of the lockdown stringency levels has not resulted in any material increase in mortality or infections.
- SA had about 50 000 active cases of Covid-19 over the course of the past week, well below the July peak of 173 590 active cases. At its peak, the death rate was about 300 per day. In the five days running up to the extension of the disaster, only 10 deaths per day were recorded. Influenza kills approximately 23 South Africans per day. TB kills more than 300 South Africans per day, AIDS another 300 South Africans per day.
- The number of recorded Covid-19 deaths has been far lower than expected and currently totals just over 18 000 deaths.
- The modelling relied upon by government have been shown to be wildly inaccurate and have been abandoned. It projected 40 000 deaths by the end of November this year, while the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s model has been trimmed to an estimate of 27 000 deaths from the virus. “PANDA – Pandemics and Data and Analytics, whose model is updated regularly, estimates 20,000 deaths by the end of the year and plots real-world data against the prediction which suggests this number to be accurate,” says the letter to the minister.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a paper by world-famous epidemiologist John Ioannidis which estimates the Infection Fatality Rate of the virus is less than 0.2%.
“As is evident from the above synopsis, South Africa is no longer faced with the uncertainties that it was confronted with when the initial state of disaster was enacted and declared. Consequently, the circumstances that prompted the declaration have disappeared and therefore the underlying motivation for the national state of disaster has as well,” says the letter.
In terms of Section 37 of the Constitution, a state of emergency may only be maintained for 90 days before its extension must be approved by Parliament. No such parliamentary approval has been obtained for the latest extension.
The letter asks the minister to provide written reasons for the lockdown extension, backed by supporting documents and expert evidence. It also requests that the minister immediately terminate the national state of disaster and provide an undertaking that there will be no further extensions of the disaster.
The minister has until 30 October 2020 to reply, failing which DearSA will be forced to approach the High Court for relief.