We are facing a severe threat to our religious freedom – and to the future of our democracy – in the form of the National Health Act’s Draft Regulations, which are open for comment only until Friday, 15 April 2022.
As you are aware, for the past TWO years we have lived under a State of National Disaster, where most of our fundamental human rights have been severely (and in some cases completely) limited. We have been ruled by Government Regulations, with virtually no effective oversight by Parliament or the courts.
There is a pattern of unfair discrimination against the religious community
During this time, it is evident that there has been a consistent pattern of unfair discrimination against the religious community:
- From the outset, religious workers and religious organisations were not included in the category of essential workers. Despite numerous letters to the President, the COGTA Minister and a legal action in the High Court, this is STILL the situation.
- Religious gatherings were branded as “super spreader events”, without any scientific proof or evidence.
- Religious gatherings have been (and continue to be) subjected to more burdensome sanitation, record keeping, health and hygiene protocols than any other sector of society.
- Religious gatherings were shut down while casinos, fitness clubs etc. continued to operate.
- Helicopters, rubber bullets and batons were used to break up prayer meetings, while party-political rallies and other events continued without any police interference.
There is no valid rationale for removing our Constitutional rights
With the appearance of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Government can no longer argue that they require these extensive executive powers to save lives.
According to Prof Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, “Government’s target of 70% of the population being vaccinated is now irrelevant, as between 80% and 85% of the population have boosted immunity against the virus, either from previous infection, the vaccine, or a combination of both.”
Globally, countries are rolling back their COVID-19 regulations, no longer limiting numbers at gatherings or requiring mask wearing, because they recognize that these measures have been ineffective and the collateral damage of continuing them is too high.
Again – and in the words of Prof Mahdi – “We see no reason for the continued use of this legislation, nor for the National Coronavirus Command Council.”
Government is NOW seeking to expand its rule
Government proposes exiting the State of National Disaster but intends keeping (and even expanding its powers) in terms of Regulations made under the National Health Act on the pretext of continuing to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
These Draft Health Regulations – which are open for comment only until Friday, 15 April 2022 – require no Parliamentary oversight, do not require the Minister to give reasons for any decisions, and effectively grant Government the same extraordinary executive powers they have had under the State of National Disaster – INDEFINITELY.
Unless we ALL speak up and make our opposition heard, this will shortly become the “new normal”.
Here are some of the “lowlights”:
- The Minister of Health has the sole discretion to list any disease as a “notifiable medical condition” (“NMC”) without any consultation with the public and/or Parliament and/or any requirement to give reasons for such a listing.
- In drastically limiting our Constitutional rights, the Draft Regulations simply consider the “risk of transmission”, NOT the actual severity of the disease. Something as inconsequential as a “common cold” could be listed as an NMC.
- The Draft Regulations impose the same degree of limitation of human rights irrespective of the severity of the disease, and can do so indefinitely as long as a disease is listed as a NMC.
- There is no defined criteria, or process, for a disease to be declared an endemic, let alone a
- The Regulations impose mandatory medical examination, hospitalisation, quarantine, isolation and treatment, for merely having been exposed to someone with a NMC, or for being simply “suspected” of having contracted a NMC.
- “Treatment” is undefined and could include mandatory vaccination or compulsory quarantine in a State facility.
- You must show proof of vaccination if you wish to attend any gathering of over 1,000 people indoors or 2,000 outdoors. This is a gross and unjustifiable violation of the right to religious freedom guaranteed by sections 15 and 31 of the Constitution.
- Failure to comply with these provisions is a criminal offence with a sanction of an unspecified fine and/or 10 years in jail.
CALL TO ACTION
It is vital that you act NOW to make your voice heard and to push back against these draconian Regulations, which will centralise and confirm power in the hands of an unaccountable political elite. As an individual, you can either go to DearSA to comment on the Regulations, or download this template submission for individuals and email it to email@example.com. As a religious organisation, you can download this template submission for organisations to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for comments is Friday, 15 April 2022.