Growing risk to civil liberties must be challenged – IRR

Institute says govt’s track record on forced quarantine is questionable at best

Growing risk to civil liberties must be challenged – IRR

12 May 2020

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) notes with great concern the government’s renewed enthusiasm for taking on the responsibility of managing the isolation of people vulnerable to or at risk of spreading Covid-19.

Government’s track record on forced quarantine is questionable at best, with citizens being left stranded at airports and forced to live under conditions below World Health Organisation standards of hygiene. That the state is entertaining the notion of even more drastic intervention into the lives of South Africans is worrisome – especially in the context of the increasing risk to civil liberties.

On Thursday, IRR Head of Policy Research Dr Anthea Jeffery will present an online media briefing on the clear dangers to liberty in this time of crisis. The briefing will coincide with the publication of Dr Jeffery’s latest report, Keeping Liberty Alive.

The reports notes that, apart from the catastrophic economic damage inflicted by an extended lockdown, especially for the poorest South Africans, the threat to liberty is expanding too.

Writes Dr Jeffery: ‘Now that it has become clear that the lockdown is not a temporary phenomenon but a fixture for the foreseeable future, it is all the more vital to examine the threat it poses to the political and economic freedoms of all South Africans.

‘If liberty is to be kept alive, it is vital to challenge every unreasonable and unjustifiable decision – from the irrationality of specific rules to the constitutionality of the lockdown as a whole. It is also important for South Africans to think ahead to the period beyond the virus, when the key need will be to revive and reinvigorate the economy after the devastation resulting from the lockdown.’

Issued by Hermann Pretorius, IRR Deputy Head of Policy Research, 12 May 2020