Public health emergencies place immense power in the hands of executive leadership. This can pose a risk of creeping authoritarianism. Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller and Dr Benjamin Roberts explore the lessons that can be drawn from the findings of the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council’s online survey on the public’s views on lockdown regulations.
In March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic led President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce a state of national disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. Strict lockdown regulations instituted under this legislation had a clear bearing on human rights.
While the High Court declared some of the Level 4 and 3 regulations irrational and thus unconstitutional in mid-2020, our survey research demonstrates that ordinary people in South Africa voice unwavering support for the select limitation of their rights as a means of preventing the spread of the virus.
We believe that this partly reflects