The court made a number of declarations of principle that must continue to operate even during the state of disaster caused by the lockdown and other steps taken by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19. It also issued several orders about what the security forces and their leaders, including the Ministers of Police and of Defence, must do in relation to the lockdown and the behaviour of the security forces during this time. Further, the court gave strict deadlines for complying with these orders.
In a major victory for human rights, the family of Collins Khosa and their neighbours have won a court application for orders against the security forces and their bosses. And they will no doubt be awarded significant damages when that part of the litigation is eventually heard. But they are not the only winners: everyone in South Africa has won because of this restatement by the courts that the government and the security forces will be held to account for how they behave – even during restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 – and that their behaviour will be measured against the standards of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Many decades after they were detained and tortured, two prominent Kenyan activists who campaigned for multi-party democracy and human rights have been awarded posthumous compensation related to their detention and torture under previous repressive governments. The court that awarded compensation to them also made formal declarations that the fundamental freedoms of the two, Charles Rubia and John Serony, had been violated, as had their right not to be subject to torture and other unlawful abuse. Though it had been many years since the two were detained and tortured, the presiding judge said it was ‘not too late to peer into the past and correct injustices that may have occurred in our history.’
A group of four students studying law in Malawi have lost their high court case challenging the validity of the President’s Covid-19-related directives. They also lost their challenge to the closure of their university in terms of those directives. But it was not all bad news for them – at least the students won commendation from the presiding judge for ‘taking their future seriously’.
Read judgment by Judge Zione Ntaba, 7 April 2020
Read judgment by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, 3 April 2020
Scientists increasingly believe that pangolin meat might have been part of the trigger for the deadly coronavirus. In this case the pangolin would have been bought in a typical Chinese market where illegally obtained wildlife has been an everyday element. But though that news has given new impetus to wildlife protection, it turns out that there is no proper legal protection for the pangolin in Zimbabwe. Cabinet ministers have not added it to the list of protected species whose possession is unlawful – despite being urged to do so in a recent judicial decision.