Author: Paul Mudau
PhD Candidate and Researcher, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand
On 15 March 2020, and while owing to medical and scientific advice and with the aim of controlling and managing the invasion and the spread of the invisible enemy, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa introduced extraordinary legal measures, placed the country under a nationwide lockdown and sealed its international borders. The lockdown took effect from 27 March 2020. The President simultaneously declared a national state of disaster in terms of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act (52 of 2002). Apart from the 1996 Constitution, the Disaster Management Act is applicable during lockdown together with other relevant statutes such as the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 and Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act 13 of 2013. This, was followed by a series of announcements and impositions of numerous lockdown Regulations and Directives that require hygienic practices, physical and social distancing, quarantine, and isolation measures.
Since 2009, most parts of northern Nigeria, particularly the north-east zone, have been enveloped in a climate of fear and insecurity. This is largely due to the activities of the group Jamā’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lādda’awatih wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), popularly known as “Boko Haram”. What began as a religious movement in 2002 has since grown into a full blown insurgence. The extra-judicial killing of its founder, Yusuf Mohammed, by the police in 2009, perhaps, served as a critical factor. The perennial failure of governance, porous borders with volatile neighbouring countries, high levels of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, and more recently, the hard-handedness of the government’s military response, have also made mobilisation of support and radicalization a lot easier for the group.
The protracted security crisis has now led to a human rights and humanitarian crisis in those parts. Government interventions, for a long time, proved inadequate and failed to contain the crisis. Instead, several human rights violations were reported from the activities of both the government’s military Joint Task Force and Boko Haram. According to Amnesty International, people living in that part of the country are precariously trapped in a vicious cycle of violence. Lives and limbs have been lost, properties destroyed and people displaced. There is no consensus about the exact casualty figures. Nonetheless, there is no argument that it is well in the thousands now.