A new criminal offence has been added to South Africa’s disaster management regulations for Covid-19, making it illegal to incite people to break the regulations.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Corporate Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma published the updated regulations in the early hours of this morning for South Africa’s move to an adjusted alert level 4 lockdown. It states:
“Any person who incites, instigates, commands, or procures any other person to commit any offence in terms of these regulations commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
The addition of this new offence follows a mass gathering organised by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) last week to march on the headquarters of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) in Pretoria.
The EFF marched on Sahpra’s offices to protest the fact that the organisation has not yet approved the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Coronavac vaccines for use in South Africa.
Professor Shabir Madhi, director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytical Research Unit at Wits University, has said that the demonstration was a superspreader event.
He said that the EFF’s demonstration showed that South Africa needs to reconsider whether it goes into “election mode”.
“If that is the type of behaviour that we should come to expect of political parties then we are just setting ourselves up for another disaster.”
Mahdi said that the most important thing that can be done to slow the rate of transmission of the virus was to simply ban all mass gatherings — which government has now done with the move to an adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re ten or fifty people — in a poorly ventilated space those ten or fifty people are going to contribute to hundreds of other infections… particularly if they’re not wearing face masks,” he said.
“Management of mass gatherings is probably [our] single most effective tool.”
Following the EFF’s march, officials released statements defending Sahpra and asking for the public to allow the agency to do its work in peace.
Ramaphosa echoed this in his address to the nation on Sunday night.
Sahpra issued a strongly-worded statement in response to the EFF, saying that the party’s allegations against the Sahpra board chair, Professor Helen Rees, are totally unfounded and false.
It also stated that it does not favour any vaccine applicant as the EFF alleged.
Sahpra announced on 21 June that its evaluation of the Coronavac vaccine, which is manufactured by Sinovac, is at “a very advanced stage.”
It said that the application for the use of Sputnik V in South Africa is a rolling review. “As data becomes available to the applicant it is submitted to Sahpra,” the regulator stated.
“Sahpra only reviews products submitted to the regulator by a local applicant. If no application has been submitted, no regulatory review can be undertaken,” it added.
“Thus, there is no Sahpra decision on, for example, the Sinopharm and Moderna vaccines which have a WHO Emergency Use Listing, as there have not been any applications for these vaccines in South Africa.”