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The 40th Ordinary Summit,held virtually for the first time, occurs at a time of acute global crises, described as an “existential crossroads involving a pandemic, a deep economic recession, devastating climate change, extreme inequality…” SADC leaders and Member States,confronting these crises, are urged to reset the fundamentals of regional integration and move speedily towards a community upholding and respecting human rights, advancing and promoting socio-economic justice and building a strong, resilient and self-sufficient economies which serve all people.

We recognise that the inequalities and inequities within and between countries are structural and systemic, particularly gender, race and class based inequalities. It is vital that responding to the pandemic does not exacerbate and worsen these inequalities. The virus does not discriminate; however its impact will be felt disproportionately by the poor and vulnerable in our society. A regional emergency plan of action, supported by a SADC COVID-19 Relief Fund, is required which is integrated, regional/continental, multi-sectoral and multi-facetted in order to arrest the spread of COVID-19, mitigate against it impacts, providing a platform for a new social contract and making us less suscpetible to future pandemics.

We urge all Member States to resist using the measures necessary to combat COVID-19 for narrow political gains or to roll-back civil and political space. A rights- and equitybased approach is essential in effectively combating the spread of COVID-19. Restrictions placed on society must be consistent with the UN Economic and Social Council Siracusa principles, based on scientific evidence, through the least restrictive alternative, subject to review and in line with the norms and standards of open and free society, which includes freedom of the press and respect for human dignity. Restrictions which target persons or groups unrelated to the public health necessity during this period must not be allowed by those in authority.

In this regard the entire civil society in SADC expresses deep concern and alarm at events unfolding in Zimbabwe. We call on the government of Zimbabwe to:

1)Immediately release all the trade union and CSO activists who are in detention for merely exercising the right to peaceful assembly and association
2)Restore and uphold civic and political rights in accordance with that country’s Consitution
3)Commit to credible social and political dialogue with stakeholders and roleplayers to find appropriate responses and shared actions for sustainable recovery
4)Addrress the justified concerns of health workers to provide protection against their risk of COVID at work
5)Publicly dissassociate from attempts at classifying of trade unions and CSOs in Zimbabwe as terrorist organisations

The denial of basic human rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe is a matter of regional concern for all of us. We extend our full solidarity to the people of Zimbabwe and furthermore call on neighbouring states, particularly South Africa, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Zimbabweans and other non-nationals within their borders.
We reiterate our call to the government and people of South Africa to combat xenophobia and violence against Africans in that country. We urge all roleplayers in South Africa to act in accordance with their Constitution and in the spirit of solidarity which contributed immensely to that country’s freedom from Apartheid tyranny.
We further urge SADC to activate the Mediation Reference Group to assist in supporting its response to the on-going instability in parts of Mozambique and to undertake the urgent development of a multistakeholder component of the SADC Early Warning Unit, as well as the civil component of the SADC Standby Force. We remind SADC that military interventions will not produce lasting peace or security and that an integrated and holistic response must be developed with the government of Mozambique as well as local stakeholders. In this regard we support a SADC fact-finding mission to Mozambique to engage all stakeholders coordinated with the support of the incoming SADC Chair, President Nyuzi.

Our common goal is to mobilse our people, especially women and youth, in a movement against corruption, for improving public accountability and maintaining peace and stability throughout the region and in all spheres of society including food security, climate change, adequate nutrition and social wellbeing, as committed to in the Sustainable Development Goals. Special measures must be developed by Member States to prevent malfecence, corruption and graft of COVID-19 relief funds and swift action must be taken were these are found to happen.
We further note with concern that decades of Structural Adjustment Programmes and neo-liberal policies on the continent have left us and our key public health services vulnerable and exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic and recurrent epidemics of cholera, typhoid and other infectious diseases due to inadequate investment in preventive health and safe water, sanitation, clean energy and other infrastructures essential for public health; weak testing and tracing capacity and services; inadequate staffing and training in public health; weak local production capacity for medicines, diagnostics and other essential health products and inadequate procurement management systems, weak protection against gender based violence, amongst others. Weak or severely limited community health systems have also been exposed at this time of crisis, as have the vulnerability of migrant and refugee communities.

We call on Member States to carefully consider and take into account these reasoned calls as they deliberate on the next steps of our journey towards a SADC free, prosperous and inclusive Africa, underpinned by justice for all.

The COVID-19 pandemic gives us an opportunity to build back better, more inclusive, resilient and effective socio-economic systems by:
•Ensuring that measures designed by Member States in response to COVID 19 are rights- and equitybased and prioritise access to comprehensive prevention and care services, placing those most in need at the centre of the respective measures.
•Ensuring that the necessary health resources are pooled and shared between Member States in a coordinated manner to increase and improve local production and procurement of essential health equipment, therapeutics, pharmaceuticals and vaccines.
•Ensuring access to information on cases, and to safe water, soap, face masks and for water, food and income support for those affected by quaratine provisions.
•Ensuring that responses to the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 should be developed and implemented in consultation with CSOs as well as the most representative employers’ and workers’ organizations
•Ensuring that all, including migrants and refugees, have access to public health services and dignified treatment, preventing stigmitisation and discrimination.
•Ensuring the provision of adequate Personal protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, gowns and gloves, and infection protection for all health care professionals and workers, including community health workers.
•Involving communities fully in the planning and roll-out of public health campaigns and measures
•Ensuring effective oversight, transparency and accountability in all loan negotiations and agreements related to financing COVID-19 responses, particularly with mulit-lateral and private lending institutions
•Removing barriers that impede sustained access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services during the COVID-19 crisis, including restrictions on movement for people who need critical services such as contraceptives, post abortion care or HIV medicines.
•Ensuring continued access to the full range of planned and budgeted health services, including SRH services for adolescents and young people. Earmark ample resources to prevent stock-outs of essential medicines including anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and make arrangements to counter trade limitations in commodities due to border closures.
•Putting measures in place to detect and deter price-gouging and other profiteering practices by merchants of essential medical goods and pharmaceuticals
•Instituting heightened safety measures for patients in waiting areas at health centres and facilitate provision of non-restricted COVID-19 screening and testing services by persons living with HIV, tuberculosis or silicosis, and other immune-suppressing conditions.
Furthermore we urge SADC and Member State to:
•Put in place a comprehensive social protection and income guarantee schemes to support small scale farmers and the informal economy to avert the very real dangers of a loss of income and falling livelihood opportunity for the already vulnerable and precarious sectors of society. A Universal Basic Income Grant for poor and vulnerable groups, informal workers, migrants and unemployed, is also essential to prevent a human catastrophe.
•Put in place mitigation strategies for both domestic burdens, economic hardship and increased gender based violence that need to be implemented in conjunction with civil society and faithbased organisations.
•Engage effectively with small scale farmers, producers and vendors to tailor support to the sector and that such support needs to extend across the region through SADC wide regulations and funding.
•Special attention must be given to the situation of migrant workers many of whom are particularly vulnerable and continue to be excluded from social protection schemes. Public health measures and health care services for prevention and treatment of Covid19 should be available for all workers and their families, whatever their residence status.
•Ensure food supply is maintained, prioritising procurement from smallholder farmers to local markets, roadside stands and informal shops. Additionally, COVID-19 regulations must consider smallholder farmers and support farm workers to enable them to produce and sell food even when local markets are shut.
•As SADC and the AU, ensure that border closures in the region do not disrupt food value chains, while protecting all those involved against risk of infection. While food production and support are considered essential services, other related restrictions will likely cause backlogs at border posts, which will require actions such as the ‘fast lanes’ for maize exports from South Africa to Zimbabwe already being implemented.
•Expand and strengthen national and SADC grain reserves to ensure regional food security, particularly in times of crisis; and food processing and storage facilities should be brought closer to farms.
•Ensure access to information particularly to those living in rural communities and take active measures to ensure greater digital democracy by reducing data costs.
•Ensure that all migrants, undocumented nationals and residents are treated fairly during this time of crisis. Governments are urged to treat all within their borders equitably in line with need and not to discriminate in providing support to the entire population.
•Allocate and spend at least 20% of their national budgets on education and 15% on health. Governments can raise additional funds to sustainably finance education through domestic and innovative financing for education, and by taking decisive action to prevent revenue lost to debt and harmful tax incentives.
•Ensure education systems are inclusive, equitable and transformative. SADC member states should take firm action to provide quality inclusive education for all children (including those with disabilities) and ensure no child is left behind by applying a gender and inclusion lens at all stages of planning, budgeting and expenditure.
•Protect our children and only reopen the schools in January 2021, when there is a drastic decrease in infection rates.
•Prepare proper infra-structure and support to ensure that schools are provided with the necessary protective materials to keep all learners and teachers safe until such a time that there is no longer a threat of the virus.
•Put support measures in place to prepare learners from working class communities and in particular rural youth for schools reopening.
•Ensure that each rural household has access to electricity, free data and devices to access educational programmes.
•Train and employ unemployed youth to become tutors and educational support mentors to small groups of learners.
•Minimise the inequality in access to education, through transforming the educational system in order for all children to have equal access to quality education.
•Make public the scientific basis for measures taken in the epidemic and set up a public commission in each country and SADC wide involving states, civil society, professionals, domestic private sector and WHO to review the response to COVID to identify lessons learned , improvements and investments to prevent and more effectively respond to any future pandemics.
•As a region form alliances and contest interests that undermine the solidarity of the region by strengthened unity and common action.

In support of these demands Civil Society in SADC hereby commits itself to the following actions:
# Continue to build social solidarity and support the local grassroots efforts to raise awareness, respond to the needs of communities and contribute to national and regional level efforts to contain and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on all our communities, particularly women and marginal groups
# Develop, strengthen and share knowledge and information with communities, vulnerable and marginalised groups, and create a common portal and repository of local, national and regional efforts to combat COVID-19 in all 16 SADC Member States
# Promote sector specific coordination and response efforts focused on migrants, small scale farmers, small and cross border traders, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS, etc to more effectively communicate and engage with these sectors
# Promote accountability and transparency in government efforts, particularly in ensuring the protection of human rights and the rule of law

Category: covid-19

COVID-related human rights issues


COVID-related human rights issues

State of Public Emergency
Following the announcement of the confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus on 30 March 2020, on 31 March, President Masisi declared a State of Public Emergency Emergency in accordance with section 17 of the Constitution, ‘’until further notice’’. Section 17 empowers the President to declare it for a period of 21 days, when Parliament is not sitting. He further resolved to hold a Parliamentary Meeting to ‘’. seek a resolution of Parliament for the state of emergency to continue for a longer period’’. During a press conference on 7 April 2020, President Masisi stated that he would seek a resolution for a State of Emergency for a period of 6 months. Section 17 of the Constitution limits maximum period for which such a declaration can be approved, is six (6) months. On 9 April 2020, Parliament passed the resolution tabled by Vice-President Tsogwane, for the State of Emergency to last for six (6) months. On 8 April 2020, President Masisi had stated that ‘’The State of Emergency is intended to deal only with the COVID-19 crisis and will not in any way undermine people’s fundamental rights’’. However, of concern is that States of Emergency risk being used for purposes other than that for which they have been allegedly been declared. On 31 March 2020, President Masisi declared a 28 day lockdown for the period 2-30 April 2020. On 30 April 2020 it was extended for a further 21 days.

Early reported human rights abuses during the State of Emergency include:

•The spokesperson of the Botswana Patriotic Front, Justice Motlhabane, allegedly assaulted and arbitrarily arrested on 10 April 2020 by the police (BPF President Biggie Butale 11 April 2020);
•Nicholas Kgopotso of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), who was allegedly harassed by 12 police officers for allegedly causing noise during the current COVID-19 lockdown;
•Two persons (Neo Dikgole and Thuso Sebinyane) who were allegedly assaulted by the police (Office of the President, 11 April 2020); and
•Three suspects arrested for ‘’… publishing, through electronic communications, offensive statements against government …’’ (Botswana Police Service, 11 April 2020). In terms of the Emergency Powers Act No 61 of 2020 section 31 (3) ‘any person who publishes a statement … with the intention to deceive … about any measure take by the Government to address COVID-19, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not more than P100 000 or to imprisonment for not more than 5 years or to both. It is not clear in which law the offence of ‘offensive statement against government’ is contained. Additionally, the right to freedom of expression is protected under section 12(1) of the Constitution. It can only be limited under exceptional circumstances provided by law and which are necessary for the protection of … public health … (article 19.3 (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

Human Rights which have been curtailed during the State of Emergency are: freedoms of movement, speech, expression, assembly religion and the rights to work and to education for those schools which are unable to implement an e-learning programme for their students, following the closures of schools.

Right to counsel
The right to counsel is constrained due to the limitations placed on lawyers through the Emergency Regulations. Legal services are considered to be essential services. However, the issuing authority for permits for the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security shall be the Registrar of the High Court in respect of urgent litigation matters and the Ministry as regards non-litigation urgent matters. Determination as to the urgency of matters rests with the issuing authorities. This necessitates lawyers being forced to violate the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality as they are expected to provide information about the cases, to the issuing authorities before their application for a permit may be considered. Without prior access to their clients to determine the facts, the right to counsel and a fair trial will be severely compromised.

CSOs have established 2 call lines for the reporting of human right abuses, but as they are not toll free numbers, they are not accessible to the most vulnerable in the community who have no money to pay for airtime. DITSHWANELO and Molao Matters are managing the call lines which were established on 21 April 2020.

Gender-Based Violence
There was a surge in the number of reported GBV cases which has led to the opening of 5 temporary shelters in Gaborone during the April lockdown period.
CSOs working directly in the field of GBV receive calls on their emergency telephone numbers and are able to house the GBV survivors in shelters and to offer counselling. The Botswana Gender Based Violence and Prevention Centre coordinates this work.

Child Abuse
Civil society organisations working on issues relating to children have reported concern for those children who are confined to their homes, in cases where they experience cases of incest.

CSOs working directly in the field of children’s rights receive calls on their toll free telephone number and are able to house the abuse survivors in shelters and to offer counselling. Botswana Network for Mental Health and Childline are coordinating the counselling activities.
Right to work

Informal sector workers – including domestic workers, farm workers, taxi drivers, hairdressers, artists, street vendors, car washers, piece-job workers; car park attendants, youth; and informal sector migrant workers (they are not eligible for any wage subsidy or COVID-19 Government feeding scheme) – all form a group of workers which is most vulnerable to the economic consequences of the lockdown. They are not registered under any of the government social protection schemes (such as the Supplementary Feeding for Vulnerable Groups, Destitute Programme, Labour Based Drought Relief Programme) and are consequently invisible to the authorities. This group of workers is facing hunger and is dependent on food handouts. As a group which has been self-sufficient and able to provide for itself, it is experiencing a COVID-induced poverty and an undermining of its dignity.

CSOs receive calls through the group counselling telephone numbers from informal sector workers unable to cope due to having no income and no food. The Government’s feeding scheme has taken time to reach the beneficiaries. It is also not clear for how long it will last. DITSHWANELO is coordinating the humanitarian support activities and engaging with BOISA – an informal sector workers’ group.

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Category: covid-19


Human Rights during the Lockdown in Lesotho

Mr Mokitimi Ts’osane on behalf of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)

1.Introduction

The Government of Lesotho under its duty of guarantee stemming from the Constitution, human rights treaties and conventions has a duty and obligations to protect its citizens from any threat to their Fundamental Human Rights under Chapter II of the Constitution of Lesotho and socio-economic rights termed “Principles of State Policy” under Chapter III. It is this duty of guarantee which prompted the government to undertake extraordinary measures curb the spread of the novel Covid-19 which presented imminent and uncompromising threat to human life, health and well-being. The virus was ravaging first world countries and it exposed the inefficiencies of the system in the health sector.

In response, on the 27th March 2020 the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Lesotho declared a State of Emergency which was deemed to have come into effect on 18th March 2020. The State of Emergency proclamation was published a Gazette in accordance with section 23(1) and (7) of the Constitution. The State of Emergency also corresponded with the dictates of Public Health Order No 12 of 1970 under section 16(2)(a) which mandates enforcement and imposition of isolation during surveillance of infections. The Magistrate court also has to be applauded for the release of prisoners in order to ensure the reduction of numbers of prisoners during this desperate time of crisis.

On the 29th March 2020, the government published another gazette which ordered a stringent lockdown as recommended by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O). This nationwide lockdown was for a period of 21 days which were to commence on the 1st April 2020 and was to be enforced by the army and the police. On the 22nd April, the lockdown was extended for a further 2 weeks.

Our Commentary as TRC covers and takes cognizance of the security agencies excesses against the citizens in the course of the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel Covid-19. We also cover Covid-19 used as a pretext to undermine parliament and to disregard the fundamental constitutional and political values in a representative democracy. Additionally, our commentary notes that apart from the induced health crisis, the pandemic has rapidly ignited a colossal economic crisis and the Government of Lesotho under its duty of guarantee has an obligation to protect its citizens from the economic impact of this crisis.

It is against the background of this economic crisis that governments, including that of Lesotho, have had to formulate fiscal, monetary and macro-financial relief measures aimed at mitigating the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 and to provide support to individuals, households, firms and the markets crucial for a recovery. Ultimately, the fiscal and macro-economic relief measures guarantee citizens’ right to life, well-being and health. The existence of these policy measures were engineered for effective softening of the economic impact of Covid-19.
2. Human Rights Violations

We welcome the drastic measures with which the government responded to Covid-19 to enforce social distancing and deploying the army and the police to break the chain of viral transmission which greatly mitigated the risk of the spread of the virus. Further, we welcome the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s respective appeals to the police and army to observe human rights and refrain from acts of brutality against citizens during the nationwide lockdown. The police had also promised take action against officers who did not heed this call. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the material that went viral on electronic and social media platforms that pointed to the excesses committed by the security agencies in course of discharging their noble duties during the lockdown.

In response, TRC launched an online human rights violations register, which is undergoing evaluation in the Human Rights Department as the Lockdown has been lifted. TRC acted on the basis that all state’s measures and responses to Covid-19, including the enforcement of the lockdown, should be proportionate, within the context and ambits of the rule of law, legal and necessary to protect public health in accordance with the constitution and international human rights instruments. We also hold a firm view that the security agencies’ should have been cognisant of the cross-cutting principle of respect to human dignity and integrity hence our condemnation of the brutal acts of torture, degrading and inhuman treatment on the citizens.

A local human rights organisation, Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights (LLHR) through its president, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC also weighed in on the instances of the police and army excesses and in letter urged the Law Society of Lesotho to file an urgent application in the High Court interdicting the army commander and the police commissioner from assaulting people. The LLHR further urged the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to ‘exact accountability from the said public officers in terms of the relevant legislative framework’. The LLHR further said it would be in the interest of justice for the rogue soldiers and police officers to be suspended from their official duties pending determination of their criminal cases. LLRH has about 10 cases of excesses committed by the security agencies in course of discharging their noble duties during the lockdown.

Up to this day the government had not acted on the letter and we have no reports of any investigations to bring the perpetrators to account despite the availability of materials which pin point the aggressors. It was reported on government website that eleven people were arrested for disregarding the lockdown protocols in the Maseru and Berea districts. The suspects were charged for contravening Section 3(14) read with Section 10(2) of Public Health Regulation COVID-19 Legal Notice 27 of 2020. We are of a view that apprehension should be applied equally between members of the security agencies and private. The culture of the members of the security agencies flouting the law with impunity has to end.

We note that under the Penal Code, 2010, the charges would be assault with intent to cause grievous bodily. We find this too insufficient given the magnitude of the torture, degrading and inhuman treatment that individuals suffered in the hands of the security agencies.

3.Covid-19 as a pretext: Prorogation of Parliament

On the 18th March 2020 the Cabinet met and decided that COVID-19 be declared a national emergency. On the 20th March 2020 the four leaders of the political parties which have formed Government attended a meeting at the Royal Palace at l8H00 whereat the Prime Minister adviced the King to prorogue Parliament and was given an ultimatum to act by 21H00. This move was opposed by 2(two) other coalition partners in Chief ‘Maseribane, the Minister of Communications and Miss K. Rants’o, Minister of Labour and Employment.

Three(3) hours later, when the King had not acted in terms of the Prime Minister advise, the Prime Minister proceeded to prorogue Parliament and issued Legal Notice No.21 of 2020. The Prime Minister’s prime reason was “due to prevalence of Corona Virus (Covid-19) which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) it is advisable not to have large gatherings of people in order to avoid the spread of the virus.”

Notably, this move was condemned the National Executive Committee of the party the Prime Minister leas being All Basotho Convention, political parties in parliament (mainly opposition), civil society organisations and most prominently from one of the coalition partners in Basotho National Party (BNP). At the time the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament he was facing an imminent motion of no confidence launched by Members of Parliament of the party he leads and was supported by ABC’s National Executive Committee. The move by Prime Minister was also condemned for the apparent unjustifiable involvement of the King in the Prime Minister’s political battles as he was facing an imminent motion of no confidence in the National Assembly. One of the Applicants’ prayers in ABC & 6 Ors and Prime Minister & 4 Ors Constitutional Case No. 0006/2020) be declared that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have put the office of His Majesty the King (Head of State) into disrepute and lowered its esteem.

Proroguing parliament signalled a desperate move by the Prime Minister to frustrate the enactment of the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution which would strip him off the unilateral option of advising His Majesty to dissolve parliament in case he is faced with motion of no confidence. The motion simply means that to advise His Majesty on the particular issue, the PM will need to command the two third majority of Parliament for approval. The net effect of prorogation is termination of the life of bills that lay before parliament. In this context, this could have included a bill of the magnitude of the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution.

A constitutional challenge was launched against the Prime Minster by All Basotho Convention and Basotho National Party together with 4 Members of Parliament and one member of the Senate. One of the reliefs sought was for the decision to prorogue parliament pursuant to the provisions of section 91 (3) of the Constitution of Lesotho 1993 (as amended) be reviewed, corrected and/or set aside. As alluded to at paragraph 76 of the ABC judgement the constitutional court was called upon to audit the legality of prorogation as a means to implement the Government’s policy to contain COVID-19.

In the end, the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court found that the Prime Minister did not apply his mind to the issue of proroguing Parliament by not taking into account the role of Parliament to allocate resources to deal with the health emergency posed by COVID-19. In his response to the originating application, the Prime Minister failed to respond to the averment that he failed to take into account importance of Parliament in fighting COVID-19 and that failure amounted to an admission and the Prime Minister’s version was palpably implausible considering that it is needed most to authorise emergency funding to deal with the pandemic. The Court found that the Prime Minister by ignoring the fact that by “proroguing Parliament, its constitutional financial-resources-allocative capacity which is crucial to fighting the scourge of COVID-19, would be virtually crippled, and, therefore, render his decision irrational.”

The Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue parliament was ultimately controversial. It elicited a clear disregard of the fundamental values which are crucial to the operation of the constitutional system. The actions added fire to constitutional and political crises which have been engineered by a prime minister who “has the propensity and has persistently displayed some modus operandi to damage critical arms of government” and demonstrated a “persistent behaviour of indulging in unconstitutional decisions compromising the Kingdom of Lesotho” as noted at para. 26 of ABC’s judgement.

The prorogation of parliament indicated an unambiguous disregard for fundamental tenets of democracy and an abominable disregard of constitutional values from a pair, the PM and DPM, which should be the embodiment of the highest values. The use of Covid-19 as pretext to sideline parliament for 3 months came at a moment when political decisions of immense importance regarding the pandemic and governance were to be made. Prorogation challenged the core democratic constitutional concept of checks and balances, disregarded the importance of separation of powers and was an attempt to erode the executive’s accountability to parliament and. It was also a sheer overreach of the Prime Minister which would have embroiled the Office of the King in political battles. This was also violation of the right of citizens to participate in the conduct to of public affairs their democratically elected representatives as per section 20(a) of the Constitution.

As noted by the Court, it was undeniable that the Prime Minister used Covid-19 as his reason for prorogation but at the end it was ostensibly clear that it was just a pretext to hold onto power by a complicit collusion between the Prime Minister who is facing a murder charge and his Deputy who would qualify for lifetime deputy ministerial benefits in July 2020. The court has to be applauded for saving the core values of democracy on which the Constitution of Lesotho was developed.

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Category: covid-19



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The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) and Khulumani Support Group (Khulumani) condemn the violence meted out on around 200 members of the hospitality industry when members of the SAPS violently disrupted their peaceful gathering outside Parliament on Friday 24 July 2020. We are appalled by the display of excessive force by law enforcement officials using stun grenades, teargas and a water cannon.
The protest was aimed at getting attention for the plight of some 800,000 workers in the industry whose income has evaporated as a result of the Corona Lockdown. The revised regulations at Level 3 fail to accommodate the reality that the industry receives most of its business after 17:00 If staff are to be home by 21:00 in accordance with current curfew requirements, their hours of trading have become limited to only two hours from 17:00 to 19:00, while their insurers have refused to pay out claims for the interruption of business operations by factors beyond their control.
The South African Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, of association and of expression to everyone in the country. The unnecessary and violent disruption of Friday’s peaceful gathering outside Parliament to explain the desperate situation of everyone who depends on the restaurant industry for their income, represents a violation of these basic rights and freedoms and of the provisions for the right to protest prescribed in the country’s Regulations of Gatherings Act.
HURISA and Khulumani call on all law enforcement agencies, all officials employed by the SAPS and the SANDF, to respect the fundamental right of people to hold peaceful gatherings that accord with the provisions of South Africa’s own legislation, with those of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and with the African Commission Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly for protection of citizens engaged in protests, marches, assemblies and pickets.
HURISA and Khulumani call on government to urgently meet with the representatives of the hospitality industry to explore remedies to ameliorate the desperate plight of those who serve the industry through dialogue, mediation and negotiation instead of subjecting them to entirely unnecessary violent aggression.
#SAVEJOBS SAVELIVES

For more details, please contact:
Dr Marjorie Jobson: National Director Khulumani Support Group; 082 268 0223 and
Corlett Letlojane: Executive Director HURISA; 082 574 7773

Photo: Instagram: Staff at Casa Toscana, LeSi Restaurant and Blou Hond Theatre in Pretoria

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Category: covid-19


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The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, expresses concern following reports of reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society in Africa and the adverse effects that national responses of States Parties to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have on their work.

In the context of this COVID-19 global pandemic, the role of human rights defenders has become ever more important to safeguard the fundamental human rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter).

The Rapporteur notes, in particular, serious violations of the freedom of assembly and association, as enshrined in the African Charter and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Rapporteur deplores the fact that, notwithstanding the press releases of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 17 and 24 March 2020 encouraging States to ensure compliance with the provisions of the African Charter and advocating for effective and human rights-based responses to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, several human rights defenders continue to be detained in overcrowded or unsanitary prisons and other detention centres without being charged, and this makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

The Special Rapporteur stresses the obligation of States Parties to ensure that measures adopted within the framework of COVID-19 national responses are not used as an opportunity to discriminate against, stigmatize or target particular individuals or groups, including civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteur would like to remind that efforts deployed by States Parties to curb the spread of COVID-19 in their respective territories should not result in the silencing of human rights defenders and should comply with the provisions of the African Charter.

The Special Rapporteur would also like to call on human rights defenders to continue, with determination, their activities to promote and protect human rights in compliance with the laws and regulations adopted in the context of this global threat.

The Special Rapporteur urges States Parties to:

Ensure that national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic do not lead to the targeting or undue interference with the work of human rights defenders;

Refrain from using COVID-19 related emergency declarations to justify the adoption of repressive measures against specific groups such as human rights defenders;

Also refrain from adopting measures that restrict civic space and contribute to creating a hostile environment for human rights defenders;

Ensure that human rights defenders can communicate freely without fear of reprisal;

Take all necessary measures enabling human rights defenders to conduct their core activities, in particular, those providing support to the most vulnerable populations, while complying with the health measures necessary to combat COVID-19; and Promptly release human rights defenders detained without charge.

Category: covid-19


Face-masks are routinely used by healthcare workers to prevent the nosocomial spread of infections in hospitals. There has been considerable debate about the utility of widespread use of face-masks in the general public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

1.There is good evidence to show that face-masks significantly reduce the spread of infectious droplets. A recent study involving 246 patients demonstrated that face-masks significantly reduced the detection of Ccoronavirus in the exhaled breath of Covid-19 patients. While 30% to 40% of 10 patients without masks had Coronavirus in their exhaled breath, none of the 11 Covid19 patients with masks had Coronavirus in their exhaled breath (refer to Table 1b below).

2.Through lowered amounts of exhaled Coronavirus, wearing a mask should reduce the spread of virus from individuals with the virus. The masks also reduced exhaled Influenza virus, though to a lesser extent.

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Category: covid-19


GENEVA/PRETORIA, 2 April 2020—UNAIDS is shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Gita Ramjee, who died of COVID-19 related complications on 31 March 2020. Her death is an immense loss to the HIV prevention research community. UNAIDS offers its full support to all efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent more loss of life.

“I am deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Gita Ramjee,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “She was an eminent scientist who dedicated her life to HIV prevention for women and girls in Africa. Her death is a huge loss at a time when the world needs her most. My condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Ms Ramjee is globally recognized for her ground-breaking research in the field of HIV prevention technologies for women. In 1996, she led a trial on vaginal microbicides for the prevention of HIV among a group of sex workers in Durban, South Africa. The trial was her introduction to the HIV community and was the beginning of her commitment to women-initiated HIV prevention technologies that she pursued with unwavering dedication and commitment for more than two decades.

She held the position of Chief Specialist Scientist at the Aurum Institute, where she worked to improve the health of people and communities through HIV prevention, research and innovation. She previously held the positions of Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s HIV Prevention Unit and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Global Health, University of Washington. She was also an Honorary Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Ms Ramjee received several distinguished awards and accolades for her scientific contributions. In 2018, she was awarded the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership/European Union Outstanding African Female Scientist Award. She also co-chaired the Microbicide Conferences in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and in 2012 was honoured with the conference’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

UNAIDS mourns her untimely passing and will endeavour to honour her memory by continuing to support global efforts to find methods that enable women to take control of their HIV prevention and reproductive health and rights through informed choices.

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Category: covid-19

Civil Society Response to COVID-19


Civil Society calls for governmental and non-governmental actors to apply the “Leave No one Behind” principle when responding to COVID-19.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that an outbreak of the viral disease COVID-19 – first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China – had reached the level of a global pandemic.

We, as the South African Civil Society Working Group (SAWG) on SDGs, are particularly concerned about the vulnerability of poor and disadvantaged communities – who constitute the majority of our population – during this time. A large section of our society have compromised immune systems due to the prevalence HIV/AIDS and TB. Many people lack adequate water and sanitation facilities, live in crowded human settlements and rely on public transport systems. It is not hard to imagine that COVID-19 will be disastrous for our country once it hits these communities.

As witnessed in other countries hit by COVID-19, health systems are not prepared to respond to a pandemic of this magnitude. Our public health system is already working over capacity and is unlikely to cope with new cases every day. In addition, the unequal allocation of healthcare resources in South Africa would reduce the efficiency of any response to the crisis.

Experts warn that the consequences of inequality are deepened in societies affected by the virus, pushing many of the burdens onto the losers of today’s polarized economies and labour markets. They suggest that those in lower economic strata are more likely to catch the disease – and are more likely to die from it. And, even for those who remain healthy, the loss of income and access to non-COVID health care as a result of quarantines and other measures will have sweeping and disastrous consequences.

SAWG therefore calls for governmental and non-governmental actors to apply the “Leave No one Behind” principle in the response to COVID-19. We call for exhaustive interventions that are inclusive and that prioritise the needs of the poor and disadvantaged communities.
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Category: covid-19

SA COVID-19 cases rises


Health Media Release
Fellow South Africans, as at today, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1187.We must outrightly state that these numbers do not indicate a reduction in the number of infections. It is merely a reflection of positive results that were received, verified and ready for today’s reporting.

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Category: covid-19


My fellow South Africans,
It is a week since we declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster and announced a package of extraordinary measures to combat this grave public health emergency.

The response of the South African people to this crisis has been remarkable. Millions of our people have understood the gravity of the situation. Most South Africans have accepted the restrictions that have been placed on their lives and have taken responsibility for changing their behaviour.

I am heartened that every sector of society has been mobilised and has accepted the role that it needs to play. From religious leaders to sporting associations, from political parties to business
people, from trade unions to traditional leaders, from NGOs to public servants, every part of our society has come forward to confront this challenge.

Many have had to make difficult choices and sacrifices, but all have been determined that these choices and sacrifices are absolutely necessary if our country is to emerge stronger from this disaster.

Over the past week, South Africans have demonstrated their determination, their sense of purpose, their sense of community and their sense of responsibility.

For this, we salute you and we thank you.

On behalf of the nation, I would also like to thank the health workers, our doctors, nurses and paramedics who are on the frontline of the pandemic, our teachers, border officials, police and traffic officers and all the other people who have been leading our response.
Since the national state of disaster was declared, we have put in place a range of regulations and directives.

These regulations have restricted international travel, prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people, closed schools and other educational institutions and restricted the sale of alcohol after 6pm.

We reiterate that the most effective way to prevent infection is through basic changes in individual behaviour and hygiene. We are therefore once more calling on everyone to:
– wash hands frequently with hand sanitisers or soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
– cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow;
– avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Everyone must do everything within their means to avoid contact with other people. Staying at home, avoiding public places and cancelling all social activities is the preferred best defence against the virus.

Over the past week, as we have been implementing these measures, the global crisis has deepened.

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Category: covid-19