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.
Lawyers of yet another SADC country have turned to the courts for help with security force brutality against ordinary people in the community, carried out under cover of Covid-19 regulations. This time it is Lesotho Lawyers for Human Rights that is asking the high court’s constitutional panel to stop the security forces from torturing, killing and abusing people. The organisation also wants the court to order that all members of the security forces who have assaulted or tortured members of the public should be arrested and charged. The lawyers claim that ‘terror and consternation’ is sweeping through the nation, and that the judges should act urgently to stop the unlawful brutality and to protect people against further ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’.
Security forces in Zimbabwe are continuing to use torture and deadly force against people protesting against government restrictions and fuel hikes that have made petrol in that country the highest-priced in the world. Alarming pictures of security forces beating protesters shown round the world forced President Emmerson Mnangagwa, on an international visit to drum up foreign investment, to return before his original date, and take control of the situation. But little has changed since he arrived home earlier this week, and the violent crackdown is continuing. In a rare move, the Law Society of Zimbabwe has met with the Chief Justice, Luke Malaba, to raise concerns about the way that judicial officers are handling cases relating to the crackdown. They told him it appeared the courts were biased and that justice was not being meted out.