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Category Archive: COVID19

Lockdown rights enforced for residents of informal settlements in Cape Town

The power of social media is immense. So much more than a mere communication tool, it’s a cornerstone of citizen journalism and can be one of the most effective ways in which ordinary people can tell important stories as they happen. What’s more, content posted on social media can be the grounds for legal action and meaningful change, as a case concerning lockdown rights recently heard at the Western Cape High Court clearly showed.

The naked man

On 1 July 2020, a video of a naked man being dragged out of his shack in an informal settlement in Khayelitsha went viral on social media. The man concerned, Bulelani Qolani, was removed from his home by City of Cape Town officials who were members of the Anti-Land Invasion Unit (ALIU). They destroyed his home shortly afterwards.

The ALIU is a specialised unit tasked with deciding which structures should be demolished on land they claim has been invaded. This work is conducted without a court order and typically refers to homes in informal settlements, which means that it usually affects some of South Africa’s most vulnerable people.

The video caused an outcry. It reminded people of the brutal forced removals that took place during apartheid, and demands for the judicial oversight of evictions and demolitions during the national state of disaster were heard. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a state institution that is mandated to promote respect for human rights, stepped forward in response.

Together with the Housing Assembly and Bulelani Qolani, the SAHRC brought a case against the City of Cape Town as well as the Minister of Human Settlements, the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the National Commissioner of the South African Police, the Minister of Police and the Western Cape Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS.

Lockdown rights infringed – not an isolated incident

The incident that occurred in Khayelitsha on 1 July wasn’t the only one of its kind. In fact, there were several others that took place during alert levels 3 and 4, despite that fact that evictions were meant to be suspended until the last day of the alert level period.

Some of the demolitions and evictions that occurred were as follows:

  • On 9 to 11 April 2020 in Empolweni Informal Settlement in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, the ALIU demolished structures on land owned by the City. Urgent relief was given by the Western Cape High Court to a number of residents whose structures were demolished. On 17 April, the court granted an interim order, ordering the City to return building materials confiscated from Empolweni and authorising residents to re-erect and occupy structures there for as long as the lockdown continues.
  • On 15 May 2020 in Ocean View, Kommetjie, evictions and demolitions took place on land that is privately owned by the Ocean View Development Trust. The City denied that evictions were conducted at the time, and said that ALIU had acted within its mandate to demolish illegally erected structures provided that they were unoccupied.
  • On 29 June 2020 in Hangberg, Hout Bay, the SAHRC received a complaint alleging that City officials had demolished a structure. The Western Cape High Court declared the City’s conduct unlawful and unconstitutional and emphasised that home demolitions could not be carried out without a court order during alert levels 3 and 4.
  • On 13 July 2020 in Zwelethu, Mfuleni, structures on land owned by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board in Mfuleni, which joins city-owned land, were demolished. Many of the area’s residents are desperately poor and unemployed and have been the subject of at least seven evictions carried out without a court order.

“Bleeding and in pain”

Of course, there was also the incident that received the most attention – the one that took place in Khayelitsha on 1 July. The official court papers refer to the affidavit that Bulelani Qolani gave, in which he states that while the law enforcement officers were approaching, he went inside his home and prepared to bathe: 

“He stood outside his dwelling naked and asked to be allowed to finish his bath. The law enforcement officers sprayed his neighbour with pepper spray and forcibly gained entry into Mr Qolani’s dwelling, carrying batons and guns. On entering his structure, they were already pushing up the roof to tear it apart. 

“He asked to be shown an eviction order and told them it was illegal to evict during the lockdown period. They ignored his requests, he said, handled him physically and violently, pepper sprayed him and forcefully removed him from his house, whilst still naked and in full view of residents. As Mr Qolani tried to re-enter his house, he states they shoved him to the ground and one official knelt on his back while another held him down to stop him moving.

“Eventually, after quite a struggle, Mr Qolani got back into his house and sat on his bed, his head bleeding and in pain. Whilst he was still inside, he states, the demolition was completed.”

A precedent-setting judgment

On 20 and 21 August 2020, the case between the SAHRC as the first applicant and the City of Cape Town as the first respondent was heard at the Western Cape High Court. And on 25 August 2020, judgment was delivered.

In their judgment, Judges Shehnaz Meer and Rosheni Allie declared that the City of Cape Town ALIU will not be allowed to evict people or demolish occupied or unoccupied structures without a court order while the country remains in a state of national disaster. This landmark ruling is binding in the Western Cape and may set a precedent for other provincial courts too.

What’s more, if any evictions or demolitions are conducted with a court order in place, these must be conducted “in a manner that is lawful and respects and upholds the dignity of the evicted persons”. City officials are expressly prohibited from using force, the judges decreed, and from destroying or confiscating any material on the property concerned.

SAPS members will now have to be present during evictions and demolitions to ensure they are done lawfully, in line with South Africa’s Constitution and “in accordance with the SAPS’ constitutional duty to protect the dignity of the persons evicted”. In addition, the City was interdicted and restrained from considering, adjudicating and awarding any bids or tenders received in response to a tender specifically focused on the demolition of illegal formal and informal structures in Cape Town.

The court ordered the City to return all building material and personal possessions taken by the ALIU since 1 May, and to pay R2,000 to the people identified by the Economic Freedom Fighters.

But there’s more to come. In October, additional hearings will be held to determine whether demolitions or evictions can take place without a court order once the state of national disaster has ended. It’s likely that an important conversation has begun.

Contact us

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further reading:

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COVID-19 In South Africa: Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

We have covered the COVID-19 pandemic, as it relates to South Africa and the issues that concern South Africans, since the lockdown was first announced on March 27th. We have reported on gender-based violence, the alcohol ban, evictions, and the overall impact on economic prosperity. This report from UNDP on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 provides a high-level analysis of what we can expect, as we slowly recover.

Reprinted from reliefweb.int, prepared by the United Nations Development Programme – 2020-08-24

socio-economic impact of covid-19 on south africaSouth Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. © UNDP Africa/ Morris Moma

South Africa’s GDP will take at least five years to recover from COVID-19 impact, says UNDP study

Pretoria, 24 August 2020 – South Africa’s overall GDP is expected to decline by at least 5.1 and up to 7.9 percent in 2020 and recover slowly through 2024. This will lead to major setbacks in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality, according to a new UNDP study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The study focuses on how COVID-19 will drive temporary and long-term changes in poverty levels in South Africa. The number of households below the poverty line increases as households fall from the lower middle class. Fifty-four percent of households that have been pushed out of permanent jobs to informal or temporary contracts as a coping mechanism for businesses affected by COVID-19, are likely to fall into poverty after the 6-months stimulus package is over. Thirty-four percent of households are likely to exit the middle class into vulnerability.

“Inequalities within and among nations are being exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, as the poor and vulnerable are unable to protect themselves,” said UN Resident Coordinator Nardos Bekele-Tomas. “While Government social protection grants tend to target the poorest, this study posits that care and support needs to be provided to those at the borderline of the poverty line, such as the vulnerable middle class, to reduce their likelihood of slipping into poverty.”

Populations hit especially hard are already-impoverished female-headed households, persons with only primary education, persons without social assistance, black populations, and heads of households who have been pushed from permanent to informal employment.

The launch of “The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in South Africa” report brought together representatives from government, civil society, private sector and academia. South Africa’s Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged that the study should find its way into every district and municipality. She called for a skills revolution complemented by the adoption of a technology strategy and the delivery of a district developing model by promoting gender-responsive budgeting.

The personal testimony of Khumbulile Thabethe, a single parent with three children, was a stark reminder of how the virus impact hits hardest on the most vulnerable ones. “I’ve had to prioritize food over winter clothing for my three kids. Lockdown started in the warmer months and as we moved to the colder months, I could not cope,” she told the audience.

South Africa is the country with the fifth-highest number of cases COVID-19 in the world, and the highest number of cases on the African continent. The study further observes that economic sectors most disadvantaged by the COVID-19 outbreak include textiles, education services, catering and accommodations (including tourism), beverages, tobacco, glass products, and footwear. Small and medium enterprises are most negatively impacted.

Further reading:

Life: Working, pivoting and surviving under lockdown in SA

‘Calamitous’: domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

Lockdown is hard on everyone

Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates

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Evictions in Alert Level 2

What is the state of play regarding evictions?

What does alert level 2 mean for evictions

Hurrah! We made it to Alert Level 2! The drinkers and smokers will be particularly happy, but so will the gym-goers, those with family in another province, everyone who wants to see their friends, and…landlords. Landlords? Not so fast. There is some relaxation of the rules governing the stay of evictions, but humanity and decency are still called for. We look at the Alert Level 2 regulations as they apply to rental housing and eviction.

Can you evict a tenant?

Under Alert Level 3, eviction orders could be applied for and processed but not executed. Whether or not they can be executed now depends on the wording of the order. Some eviction orders were granted in Alert Level 3 with a stay of execution “until the end of Alert Level 3”. These may be executed. But if the wording was such that the order was “stayed until the regulations permit”, it may be necessary to appear in court to enforce the order.

Any eviction granted now, under Alert Level 2, may not be executed until after the national state of disaster has lapsed or has been terminated. The only exception to this is where the court decides it is not just and equitable to suspend the order. This rule extends to the eviction of occupants from and demolition of shacks, following a spate of land invasions and shack demolitions by the City of Cape Town.

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said, “A person may not be evicted from his or her land or home or have his or her place of residence demolished for the duration of the national state of disaster unless a competent court has granted an order authorising the eviction or demolition.”

Rental arrears

South Africans have suffered considerable economic hardship as a result of the national state of disaster and lockdown, which started in March. Many people have been without income, or on a reduced income, for four months, through no fault of their own. The relief offered by the government assistance scheme, TERS, was subsistence at best. It may have enabled families to put food on the table, but not to pay their rent. Therefore many tenants are now owe rent arrears. Hopefully they are getting back to work under Level 2, but it may take some time to accrue enough income to clear their debts.

Provided the tenant has engaged the landlord in good faith to make arrangements to “cater for the exigences of the disaster”, the courts are very unlikely to grant an eviction order purely on the basis of non-payment of rent.

Furthermore, the regulations have declared unfair the imposition of penalties for late payment where the default had been caused by the lockdown or the state of disaster. At most, landlords may charge interest on late payments.

Ubuntu

The regulations also forbid “any other conduct prejudicing the ongoing occupancy of a place of residence, prejudicing the health of any person or prejudicing the ability of any person to comply with the applicable restrictions on movement that is unreasonable or oppressive having regard to the prevailing circumstances.”

We previously recommended that landlords and tenants alike exercise “commercial ubuntu”, that is, compassion and empathy in the current difficult and unprecedented circumstances. We have urged all parties to keep the lines of communication open and make use of alternative dispute resolution methods, before resorting to the courts. The government’s advice also encourages fairness and equity in dealing with the humanitarian challenges caused the national state of disaster.

Seek advice from a rental housing expert

If, despite the stipulations of the regulations, you have queries or issues regarding tenants or any aspect of rental housing law, or are worried about your current situation, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za. We can provide a consultation over the phone or online if preferred. These are stressful times. Don’t let worries about tenant issues add to your anxiety. We can help.

Further reading:

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Women’s Day in a time of COVID-19

What has COVID-19 shown us about women and leadership?

Women's Day in a time of COVID-19

Women’s Day in South Africa commemorates, as everyone knows, the historic march on the Union Buildings in 1956 by 20,000 women in protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the day. The march, which was entirely peaceful and included half an hour of standing in complete silence, was a compelling act of dissent against white male-dominated oppression. Women’s Day is meant to celebrate the power of this act and the influence this gesture had on the political climate of the day.

Yet, 64 years later, the narrative around Women’s Day has degenerated to a mealy-mouthed salute to the feminine aesthetic and a reinforcement of stereotypical female roles. Listening to a radio presenter going on about his wife this morning, and how wonderful she makes his life, I couldn’t help but wonder what her life is like, forever having to bolster his ego. Online Women’s Day messages are cringe-worthy: “Spring and women have much in common. They both are about flowering, revival, inspiration and beauty. Wish you to stay young, fresh and feminine 24/7. Happy Women’s Day!” “Dear and beloved women! I wish that this wonderful holiday reminds you of the joy of motherhood and of happiness in marriage. It’s Women’s Day today so let yourself enjoy being women in full!”

This portrayal of women is far removed from the force, eloquence and leadership demonstrated by those women in Pretoria in 1956, which got me to thinking about leadership, COVID-19, and the best examples of command and authority we’ve seen globally over the past few months. I don’t think I’ll upset anyone by saying Donald Trump doesn’t make the cut – not by a long shot. But which country has led the world in taking swift, decisive action to control the pandemic at an early stage? New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern.

Not all great leaders are women, but bad leaders tend to be men

Of course not all countries that have managed the crisis responsibly are led by women. That would be statistically unlikely as there are far fewer female than male leaders in the world today. And not all men are bad leaders. It would be just as sexist to say that as to claim that “all women are bad drivers”.

But it is notable that the worst cases of incompetent leadership involve men…Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsanaro; and some of the best-handled countries are led by women…New Zealand, Germany, Scotland (in the case of COVID-19, the four countries of the UK are governed by their devolved governments, so Boris Johnson is only responsible for England. Scotland’s First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon, and there is strong consensus that Scotland has weathered the pandemic far better than England).

How to make it in a man’s world

If we look back to some of the pioneering women leaders of nations, such as Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth I, they were admired (if not liked) for being tough. They were “like men”. That was the only way for a woman to gain any purchase in a male-dominated political environment. Modern women in power are more likely to succeed by channelling their soft skills – their so-called feminine side. Many of the behaviours that make exceptional leaders are more typical of women than men. However, dominant male behaviours are more effective at getting people into leadership positions in the first place. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Cindy Gallop, writing in the Harvard Business Review, “…gender differences in leadership effectiveness (what it takes to perform well) are out of sync with gender differences in leadership emergence (what it takes to make it to the top).” They say there are a number of leadership lessons men can learn from the average woman. Note…not just from Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon, but from the average woman.

(Don’t) take it to the limit

Women (and I know this is a broad generalisation, but evidence bears it out) know their limitations. This does not mean women lack self-belief; rather it means they avoid the trap of over-confidence. Chamorro-Premuzic and Gallop say, “The only reason to be utterly devoid of self-doubt and insecurities is delusion.” Now who does that sound like? Women are better at putting the team ahead of themselves. Men’s leadership style is often narcissistic and self-centred. Women are more empathetic, and make a stronger emotional connection with their followers. Is this why New Zealanders were willing to endure a very hard lockdown (almost as hard as ours!) when the virus had barely touched their shores – Ardern had connected with them emotionally? Quite probably. Many of our friends in Scotland talked about “Nicola doing a good job”. Did anyone in England refer to “Boris”? Probably not, or not affectionately anyhow.

Female leaders are more likely to be humble than their male counterparts, as humility is intrinsically a feminine trait. Humility enables leaders to acknowledge mistakes, learn from experience, take others’ views into account, and be willing to change. It’s hard to avoid mention of Trump again. I can’t imagine him ever doing any of this.

Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality

The theme for Women’s Month 2020 is “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.” As she announced it, Minister for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, called on South Africans to “Be a part of the generation that ends gender inequality”. That’s a big ask, not because it’s unachievable, but because it is vague. “Play your part in ending gender-based violence” is clear. It’s easy to identify actions that will reduce GBV. Ending gender inequality is harder, because inequality happens not only at a structural level but at an attitudinal one.

Men, learn from women

No one wanted COVID-19, and no one would wish it on the world again. But there are many lessons that can be learned from this pandemic and the way the world’s leaders have responded. One of them is the value of gender equality in leadership. When the history books are written about 2020, there will be very clear winners and losers in the COVID-19 stakes. And most of the winners have women leaders. Men need to learn different leadership approaches from women, rather than women being instructed to learn leadership tactics from men.

True gender equality will only come about when we dispose of stereotypes and acknowledge gender differences for what they can teach us. So-called soft skills, most commonly associated with women, might be the only thing that allows this world to survive.

Men and women are not identical – but they are equal. Happy Women’s Day everyone.

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Ignoring effects of Covid-19 on women could cost $5tn, warns Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates speaks out about the need for leaders to take into account the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, as we face the long, slow task of recovery.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Melinda Gates – 2020-07-15

‘We get recovery if we get equality’ philanthropist argues in new paper urging policymakers to address unpaid labour.

Effects of COVID-19 on women
Guarani women and children in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Gates said inclusion of women from diverse backgrounds is key to fundamental change. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

The failure of leaders to take into account the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women, and their roles in lessening its harm, will mean a long, slow recovery that could cost the world economy trillions of dollars, Melinda Gates has warned.

Even a four-year delay in programmes that promote gender equality, such as advancing women’s digital and financial inclusion, would wipe a potential $5tn (£4tn) from global GDP by 2030.

“As policymakers work to protect and rebuild economies, their response must account for the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women, and the unique roles women will have to play in mitigating the pandemic’s harm,” Gates said in a paper published on Wednesday.

Globally, a two-hour increase in women’s unpaid care work corresponds with a 10 percentage point decrease in women’s ability to participate in the labour force, she said.

“I think, finally, for the first time, this unpaid labour, which has been one of the biggest cracks in society that no one wants to look at, is in everybody’s face right now.

“World leaders have kids at home right now. World leaders are seeing their wives have to drop out of the workforce or take care of an elderly parent. So I think leaders are waking up to this, and what I think you’re going to see is the coalition of leaders who say: ‘This is how we’re going to get recovery – we’re going to get recovery if we start to get equality,’” she said.

Gates’ paper, published in Foreign Affairs magazine prior to the G20 meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors at the weekend, looks at the toll the pandemic is taking on women and calls on policymakers to “use this emergency as an opportunity to replace old systems with new and better ones”.

As well as addressing unpaid care, Gates called for women’s jobs to be protected, for health systems to be strengthened, and for sexual and reproductive healthcare to be considered an essential service.

Key to any fundamental change, Gates said, will be the inclusion of women from diverse backgrounds in decision-making. Grassroots organisations also have a “fundamental” role to play, she said.

But Gates warned: “We have to keep this on the forefront of the agenda. That’s exactly why I wrote this paper. If we don’t look at the health systems, the economic systems and how we can build back, if we don’t look at the data or the female leadership or use those women’s collectives, we’re not going to build back in a better way. We’re going to have a very, very long slow recovery across the globe.”

Further reading:

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Forget Gareth Cliff, a constitutional law expert shares views on alcohol ban, curfew

Whatever your views on the alcohol ban and curfew, this is the opinion on the potential constitutionality or otherwise of the latest lockdown regulations. It is unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of a minority have deprived the majority of South Africans, who have maturely observed the rules and patiently waited for each small concession, of yet more of our freedom. But we are curious as to whatever happened to the original high court judgment declaring the lockdown regulations unconstitutional.

Reprinted from iol.com, by Sihle Mlambo – 2020-07-14

Alcohol traders remain closed after the government announced on Sunday night that the alcohol ban would be reinstated.     Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Alcohol traders remain closed after the government announced on Sunday night that the alcohol ban would be reinstated. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of an immediate ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol sent social media into a tailspin on Sunday night, with outraged citizens bemoaning that they had not been given notice to stock up ahead of the ban.

In enforcing the ban, Ramaphosa scolded South Africans who have been hosting parties, contravening lockdown regulations and contributing to the spread of the coronavirus which has now killed over 4 100 people and infected over 280 000 people since March.

On Tuesday controversial media personality Gareth Cliff added his voice to the mix, describing government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol and instituting a curfew between 9pm and 4am as “bullsh**”.

“He goes on TV this president, willy-nilly and makes rules. He sits with his national coronavirus command council and they go ‘ah I think we need to ban alcohol’ and they decide among themselves and that’s it.

“Then he says there is a curfew and you can’t visit your family. Bullsh**. You do not get to decide for free people in a free country whether they can see their mother or father, brother or sister or their children, you don’t get to do that.

“And any government that tries to do that, even if they say it’s for health reasons, it’s a tyrannical state that is trying to control your behaviour,” said Cliff.

We asked constitutional law expert Professor Pierre De Vos to comment on Cliff’s rant, and he declined, describing him as irrelevant and his rant as ridiculous.

Writing on his blog, Constitutionally Speaking, De Vos shared his views on the rationality of the contentious decisions taken by the Ramaphosa administration on Sunday.

He was sharing his opinion based on how he felt the courts would rule on the matters if the ban on the sale of alcohol or the curfew faced a legal challenge.

ALCOHOL

On the alcohol ban, De Vos said based on the rising Covid-19 cases and the increasing number of people being admitted to hospital, it was likely a rational decision in the eyes of the court.

He argued, however, that the decision to stop the sale of alcohol during level 5 of the lockdown – when cases were low – could be invalid and also contributed to the backlash the government was now facing from the public.

“Arguably, the ban on the sale of liquor during level 5 lockdown when confirmed cases were low and hospitals were close to empty, was not necessary to deal with the destructive effects of Covid-19 and may have been invalid.

“The level 5 ban may also have been a strategic mistake as it may have contributed to the public hardening of attitudes towards the lockdown, thus turning a public health emergency into a matter of law and order in the eyes of the public. But given the general deference shown by our courts to lockdown regulations, it is not clear that the courts would have invalidated the ban,” said De Vos.

De Vos said it would be difficult to argue against the alcohol ban.

“It would be difficult to argue that the ban on the sale of liquor is not necessary to deal with the destructive effects of Covid-19.

“The ban is clearly authorised by the Disaster Management Act and as long as it is rationally related to the purpose of the declaration of the disaster, it will be valid. I would be surprised if a court found that there was no rational connection between the ban and the aim of freeing up hospital beds better to deal with the medical consequences of Covid-19,” he said.

CURFEW 

De Vos said due to the dire situation in which the country found itself, it would be difficult to argue against the need for a curfew as it curtailed those who hosted parties from doing so.

“I will assume the purpose of the curfew is to stop socialisation of people at night (as such socialisation will allow the virus to spread faster), and additionally to make it easier for the police to enforce the other lockdown regulations.

“The former is an important and pressing purpose while the latter is not. This must be weighed up against the impact that the imposition of the curfew will have on members of the public. Clearly, a curfew radically curtails an individual’s freedom of movement and would only be justified in extreme cases.

“The state would have to show that other measures that are less invasive of citizen’s rights are not available to achieve the purpose. I am not sure they will be able to do so, but, once again, given the deferential attitude of most courts towards the government imposed lockdown restrictions, I am not as confident as I would normally be that a challenge to the curfew would be successful,” he said.

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Sharp increase in UK child sexual abuse during pandemic

While South Africa and the UK have experienced COVID-19 and lockdown differently, some of the consequences have been as global as the pandemic itself. We may not have the same number of children in care homes, but our children and adolescents face the same risks from online predators. With children spending more time online, and parents also trying to work remotely and therefore not able to provide continuous supervision, online stalkers are having a field day, as this article explains. Make sure you know what your children are doing online. Keep them safe.

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Jess Staufenberg – 2020-07-08

Children’s homes warn of struggle to keep residents safe as more time spent online puts young people at greater risk

online predators are on the increase
Children’s home manager Laverne Cole says some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Lockdown was supposed to make us all safer and save lives. But for some vulnerable young people the opposite has been true.

Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, warned last month that isolation was creating a “perfect storm” for child sexual abuse. With most pupils not back at school before September, children are spending more time online, putting them at greater risk of being targeted by strangers through social media, apps and gaming. And, although lockdown is easing, children now face the long summer holidays with few adults outside the family to spot if something is going seriously wrong.

At the moment, data on child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse during lockdown is not yet clear. We know from recent National Crime Agency (NCA) figures that at least 300,000 people in the UK pose a risk of committing physical or online child abuse, more than double the 140,000 reported last year. And NCA figures shared exclusively with the Guardian show that during each of the 13 weeks of lockdown, around 350 cases of online child sexual abuse were passed to police, a 10% increase on the same period last year.

Even then, it may take some time. Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at NSPCC, warns that it may not be until 2021 that we will know the full impact. “What we’re likely to see here is a long tail of disclosures [in autumn].”

Meanwhile, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a charity that reports and removes online child abuse, revealed in May that during lockdown, three major internet companies logged 8.8m hits to child sexual abuse imagery from the UK alone.

Susie Hargreaves, chief executive at the IWF, warns of an “exponential rise in self-generated content, where children on their phones and laptops have clearly been coerced and groomed into sharing graphic sexual images of themselves, without realising these are being recorded and shared”. She adds: “Clearly, the more vulnerable the child is, the more likely they are to be tricked and coerced.”

Perhaps nowhere are vulnerable children more likely to be found in greater numbers than in England and Wales’s 2,360 children homes.

One west London home for girls at risk of sexual exploitation has been pioneering a system to keep its residents safe – although it has found it harder to enforce amid lockdown, particularly as new guidance around “staying alert” has blurred the rules.

On arrival at the home, which is run by the charity St Christopher’s Fellowship, the girls’ phones are removed and they are then returned as a reward for safe behaviour. They also get a fob key to leave the house, which – crucially – can be deactivated by staff.

“It’s about being attentive to their patterns,” explains Laverne Cole, regional manager at St Christopher’s. “They might be unsettled or perhaps they’re still dressed when everyone else is in pyjamas. Their mood dips or they become excitable. We say, ‘We’re worried about your safety, let’s do something inside today’.”

According to Cole, the system, which in 2015 won funding under the Department for Education’s Social Care Innovation Programme, has resulted in far fewer girls going missing, and the DfE’s evaluation of the project notes “a decline in incidents involving actual or potential harm to self or others over the course of the intervention”.

But this model, which rewards good behaviour indoors with the freedom to go outside, has been fundamentally undermined by lockdown. Some girls thought lockdown was imposed by the home, rather than the government, Cole explains.

“We had one young person who found that really hard and went to great lengths to contact the police about her human rights.” The police, she says, helped to “reinforce the message that this isn’t coming from us and we’re not doing anything unlawful”.

The incident shows how children’s homes, which already strike a delicate balance around their residents’ liberty, faced losing young people’s trust when trying to enforce lockdown. It’s a balance set to become even more complicated, as experts warn of a “summer of rave” and parties amid the government’s lack of clarity about when socially starved young people can meet up.

But not all children’s homes were able to keep residents safe inside during the height of the pandemic. At a privately run care home in East Anglia, staff could not prevent a 13- and a 14-year-old girl from being abducted by men in their 20s who had contacted the girls through social media. “Often the girls don’t perceive it as harm,’ says John Anderson, the owner of the children’s home. “The abusers can be seductive and so in a child’s mind it becomes very confusing.”

During lockdown, a taxi appeared outside the home and the girls got in. Anderson immediately confronted the driver. “I asked him not to take them as, legally, it was child abduction, but he didn’t listen. We rang the police and photographed the taxi driver, then followed him.”

The police eventually rescued the girls and arrested the men. The situation sounds chillingly familiar: the 2014 independent inquiry into Rotherham child abuse from 1997 to 2013 noted taxi drivers were a “common thread” across cases.

Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and online predators
 Ex-chancellor Sajid Javid, who has launched an inquiry into child sexual abuse and exploitation. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

A pressing issue is the lack of secure placements, says Anderson. With only 15 secure homes in the country but demand for them rising, open residential homes like his are increasingly being asked to take in young people who need higher staff ratios and more restrictive measures. It’s another pressure on the system that’s been exacerbated by coronavirus, but which will not go away as lockdown begins to ease. Anderson eventually found the highest-risk girl a secure solo placement with a three-to-one staff ratio.

Javid has now launched an inquiry into child sex abuse and exploitation with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The first part on organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming, is expected to be published in the autumn.

Speaking on the phone, he says he is particularly concerned that – as happened in East Anglia – dangerous taxi drivers are still arriving outside children’s homes. It’s “terrible”, he says, adding “there is a case to look at powers for child protection and the police, so that they are able to do more to protect young people when we know they are in harm’s way”.

Javid also believes technology could be used more effectively. “Why is it not the case that [taxi drivers’] movements … are constantly monitored on GPS? So if you drive near a children’s home, that information would be available to law enforcement and others and act as a deterrent.”

In the meantime, children’s home managers would like some recognition that they have been working flat out to keep vulnerable young people safe.

Carol Smith, residential manager of a therapeutic children’s home in north Wales, says “there’s still a stigma” around children’s homes and many staff have felt unrecognised. “There’s been a lot of clapping for nursing homes but I do feel like children’s homes have been sadly missed. We live here, we sleep here. We care about these children like they’re our own children.”

Some names have been changed

Cape Town attorney can help

If you’re worried about cyberbullying, online predators or other risks to your children’s safety online, we can review your situation and arrange a protection order if warranted. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or simon@sdlaw.co.za today for more information or to make an appointment. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back and schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Further reading:

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Give responsibly – make sure your food parcels reach those in need

Various organisations will make sure your food donation reaches the people in need

As we contend with rising incidence of COVID-19 in South Africa (though still thankfully much lower than our European and North and South American counterparts) and the restrictions of lockdown, World Hunger Day, which took place on 28 May, has passed us by, more or less unnoticed. Yet COVID-19 – or rather, the economic fall-out from lockdown – is causing hunger in South Africa on an unprecedented scale. Many people want to do what they can, despite their own challenges, to help those most in need. How can you give responsibly?

Because we have a history of corruption in this country, it can be tempting to bypass the intermediaries and give food directly to those who need it. Some people are doing just that – cooking and taking hot meals to the homeless. While their intentions are laudable and there is no doubt their hearts are in the right place, we would encourage you rather to contribute to organised efforts and give responsibly.

Why donate through a relief organisation?

Channelling your philanthropic activities through an authorised relief organisation has multiple benefits. Firstly, they are taking proper infection control precautions. This not only protects the recipients; it protects you and your household. Secondly, they are working with community leaders to ensure food is distributed to those truly in need. And they are putting together food parcels designed to give a family not only enough food for a given period, but a sufficiently nutritious and balanced diet. Pap alone may be filling but does not provide adequate nutrients.

Where can you give responsibly?

Many relief organisations are well placed to put together the food parcels, and need funds rather than food. Others welcome groceries and other items. You should be able to find an organisation near you that will welcome the type of help you want to offer. 

Many Woolworth’s stores have set up a facility to allow customers to purchase extra non-perishable goods and place the items in a collection trolley on their way out of the store. This is a particularly nice way to help, if you can’t afford to do much but want to do something. A few tins of beans or carton of UHT milk added to your weekly shop won’t make your grocery bill unmanageable.  

Thanks to Eyewitness News for providing the following information. These organisations connect donors to local food relief groups around the country:

FoodForwardSA
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– Donate here.

The Angel Network
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– You can donate via their website.

CoronaCare for South Africa
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info on how to donate here.

Islamic Relief
– Area: national
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info can be found on their website.

Ladles of Love
– Area: Cape Town
– Donations needed: monetary, loaves of peanut butter and jam sandwiches
– More info: You can donate via PayFast or contact them on 076 064 3694.

These organisations are local to the Western Cape:

The Sprightly Seed
– Areas: Lavender Hill, Nyanga East, Mfuleni, Kalkfontein and Mitchell’s Plain
– Distributing food and hygiene packs to 450 families
– Donations needed: monetary
– For more info, go their givengain account.

The Mahabbah Foundation
– Areas: throughout Cape Town where help is needed
– Distributing 2000 loaves of bread with jam daily
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info: 082 468 7484

Ramzi’s Food
– Areas: throughout the Cape Flats and Brooklyn
– Catering company transformed into a community kitchen feeding over 1000 people daily
– Donations needed: monetary and groceries
– More info: 072 387 8622

Noordhoek Group:
– Areas: collecting for Masiphumelele families
– Boiled eggs and sandwiches can be dropped off at The Foodbarn Deli at the Farm Village (Noordhoek) on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Kensington Neighbourhood Watch
– Areas: Kensington and Factreton
– Distributing food and hygiene packs to households
– Donations needed: monetary, food and sanitary items
– More info: 060 991 1425

Warriors of Hope
– Areas: Bonteheuwel
– Distributing hot food to households
– Donations needed: monetary
– More info, go to their Facebook account.

Restaurant Foliage
– Areas: Franschhoek and surrounds
– Restaurant turned into a community kitchen providing hot meals daily
– Donations needed: monetary and groceries
– More info: You can donate on the Isabelo website.

Nakhlistan
– Areas: throughout Cape Town
– Distributing hot meals daily
– Donations needed: monetary
– Find more info on their Facebook page.

Share your information with us

If you know of other organisations, restaurants or grocery retailers helping to feed the hungry during this period, let us know and we will update this article. Let’s all give responsibly!

Furthermore, with winter upon us in full force, please share any information about where to donate blankets and warm clothing. You can contact Simon at SD Law on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za

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Covid-19 has gifted us a chance to end gender-based violence. We must take it

If the world can unite to beat coronavirus, it should apply the same energy to rooting out abuse

Reprinted from the Guardian 2020-05-30. By Graça Machel.

Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes.
 Millions of women and children are fighting for survival from abusers in the prisons of their homes. Photograph: Patrick Baz/Abaad/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic is gifting us an unprecedented opportunity to take innovative action and comprehensively confront the scourge of violence against women.

We have a unique window in which, as a human family, we are able to boldly address the social ills Covid-19 is unearthing, and redesign and rebuild our social fabric.

In this process of self-examination, we must work to root out the global epidemic of gender-based violence as aggressively as we are tackling the pandemic itself.

The lockdowns expose what many of us have always known – our most intimate spaces, our homes, are not always safe places. Research by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) predicts that there will be at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence around the world in 2020 for every three months that lockdowns are extended.

A “pandemic within a pandemic” has been exposed and we are confronted with the horrific reality that millions of women and children – in every country – are fighting for their survival not from Covid-19 but from the brutalities of abusers in the prisons of their homes.

Studies indicate domestic violence has increased by upwards of 25% in numerous countries as a result of shelter-in-place measures.

Abuse survivors are facing limited access to protective services during periods of quarantine. It is no secret that pandemic restrictions have negative ramifications for adults and children already living with someone who is abusive or controlling, and access to support services are significantly constrained.

Most unfortunate is while the need for survivor support is increasing, justice is proving hard to access. Resources are being diverted away from judicial systems towards more immediate public health measures. In every country, hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, as well as critical legal aid and social services, are being scaled back due to infection control measures. Many courts have closed their doors.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” the saying goes. And Covid-19 just may be the midwife we need to help birth a flattening of the gender-based violence curve. We have an opportunity here for criminal justice systems to be completely overhauled to fight gender-based violence.

Countries need to fund innovations promoting remote judicial services, invest in specialised protection services, work with the private sector and create more channels for accessing justice, such as by collaborating with community-based paralegals and non-lawyer legal assistance initiatives. The time is ripe to address the lack of sensitivity in police and court proceedings as well as rehabilitative support for offenders and survivors. We need to support justice leaders by creating a virtual forum for ministers to share best practice and highlight urgency.

There are many impressive practical initiatives taking steps to lessen the dangers women face at the hands of their abusers. Countries such as Spain and France have created emergency warning systems in supermarkets and pharmacies to offer counselling and help with reporting. Canada is keeping shelters open and earmarking resources in its relief bill, categorising them as essential services. Out of a necessity for more shelters, 20,000 hotel rooms for survivors will be paid for in France. Police in Odisha, India, have implemented a phone-up programme, where officers check up on women who previously filed reports of domestic violence before the lockdown. These innovative approaches need to go beyond the confines of borders, be adapted for local contexts and replicated at scale globally.

The innovation and resilience of grassroots justice groups continues to give me hope in these dark times. They too are on the frontlines, leading rights awareness campaigns, adapting to deliver legal advice remotely and ensuring disadvantaged groups are not overlooked.

Social media is another powerful weapon at our disposal. Bold advocacy and awareness campaigns should become a common feature on our TV and phone screens.

We have been presented with the opportunity to reimagine and redesign our societies to be safe, vibrant and equitable. We are proving that we can come together as a united human family to holistically tackle Covid-19; let us apply an equally comprehensive, vigorous and unrelenting focus to eradicating gender-based violence as well.

  • Graça Machel is the deputy chair of global human rights organisation The Elders, founder of the Graça Machel Trust, and an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights

Don’t suffer in silence

SD Law is a firm of family lawyers deeply committed to the fight against gender-based / domestic violence. If you are affected by these issues, either directly or indirectly, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za today. We can assist with a protection order and help remove you to a place of safety. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/
complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za
National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
National Human Trafficking Helpline: 0800 222 777
Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567
Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999

Further reading:

‘Calamitous’ domestic violence set to soar by 20% during lockdown

Alcohol fuels gender-based violence

Locked down with an abuser?

 

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Life: Working, pivoting and surviving under lockdown in SA

Reprinted from the Daily Maverick. By Alan Van Gysen, 27 May 2020

We thought this article was worth sharing. Nine weeks ago, we said, “we’re all in this together”. As the lockdown has unfolded, it has become clear that nothing could be further from the truth. This article highlights the plight of some Western Cape residents.

‘As police, we meet people who have the virus, we’re at risk’

Sergeant Leon Fortuin, Zeekoevlei – Ocean View SAPS

Police and other law enforcement personnel, along with healthcare workers, are at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 on the frontline of the battle against this virus.

Standing outside “die blokke”, council flats in Ocean View in Cape Town’s deep south, Sergeant Leon Fortuin reflects on the “new normal” while giving Department of Health workers a hand and talking to residents about recent crimes in the area, including the theft of a bicycle at gunpoint that morning, as well as yet another shooting the day before.

“After seven weeks of lockdown, it is interesting to see how the three different communities that fall under Ocean View station have reacted to the restrictions. When we encountered some community members in Kommetjie, they were just worried about when they could go surfing again… they just wanted to be on the beach,” said Fortuin.

“In Ocean View, residents just wanted to know when they could buy cigarettes and alcohol again. And Masi… oh man, it’s like there has hardly ever been a lockdown there. The people are just up and down the roads all the time, so we’ve had to issue them a lot of fines, and that caused some conflict because they wanted to know why must they be confined to their homes. From their point of view, they live in a shack and you cannot have social distancing when three or four people are confined to such a small place.

“The real risk from a SAPS perspective, though, is seeing the number of Covid-19 (cases) rapidly increasing in Cape Town, and people, in general, being affected by the coronavirus. We’ve been working with the department of health, going through Ocean View and Masiphumelele, and assisting with the screening of residents.

“We’re trying to test as many as possible. Not many have gone for tests, but there have been some, and we are seeing more and more positive cases. Obviously, because we are meeting people who have the virus, we’re also at risk of exposure. I myself have gone for a test two weeks ago and it came back negative, so that’s good. No one at this station has contracted it yet, but two weeks ago a member of ours came into contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus, so we had to temporarily close the station for a few days so a specialised company could come in and spray the station,” said Fortuin.

“A normal Covid-19 day for us now, over and above our normal duties, includes our special briefing in the morning, then meeting and assisting the health department between 08:30 and 12:30 with door-to-door screenings, assisting people with permits… there are so many people wanting to cross provincial boundaries to the Eastern Cape for funerals. We have to do more roadblocks to check permits, and we need to search more premises. We confiscate a lot of cigarettes from spaza shops, which comes with a R1,000 fine.

“We’ve also had to assist law enforcement from the City of Cape Town and the Sheriff from Simons Town with evictions from flats where residents have not paid their rent for some years. I believe there was an instruction from government to ask landlords to please bear with their tenants during this difficult time, and to not evict people from their homes. I also have a place I am renting out and tenants couldn’t pay me, but ja… it’s one of those things and I understood their concerns and challenges, so I told them, it’s fine for now – we’re all going through hard times and they must just pay me what they can, when they can. It’s tough doing this kind of work, because as a person you really do feel compassion for people.”

‘I saw two trucks coming up through Ocean View, law enforcement vehicles, and I just knew’

Ocean View resident Bernie Rossouw stands in defiance outside her informal home which she shares with her three children and pets after she was evicted unlawfully by The City of Cape Town during Covid-19 lockdown level 4. (Photo: Alan van Gysen)

Bernadette “Bernie” Rossouw, 35, Ocean View – evicted resident 

Above Ocean View lies a piece of undeveloped land on which numerous shacks have been erected over the past 16 years. The land was donated to the people of Ocean View for housing development by way of a trust, but after years of inactivity and no public participation on further plans for the land, the City of Cape Town arrived to evict people on 15 May. Among them were Bernie Rossouw and her three children.

“I have been living here since January after my third eviction left me homeless, but people have been occupying this land for years. The development trust covers 15.4 hectares of land and originally there were some plots available for R800 in Beverly Hills and R300 in Atlantic Heights, but those are all gone and Ocean View is as overcrowded as ever. People are living like sardines in a tin,” said Rossouw.

“The trustees are supposed to be the custodians of the land, but now they are trying to sell the land for R8-million to a private investor who apparently will subdivide the remaining land into properties to be sold for R1-million each. Who can afford that here in Ocean View? This land is supposed to be for low-cost housing. After hearing this, I occupied the land. I was born and raised in Ocean View. I fail to understand how this land is for sale and why our evictions are happening.

“A 78-year-old man and his wife live just down from me. Luckily they were home, so law enforcement couldn’t destroy their home and remove them. But the rest of us weren’t so lucky. If you aren’t occupying your home, they can tear it down and remove what they can. I saw two trucks coming up through Ocean View, law enforcement vehicles, and I just knew.

“I’ve experienced this too many times. I went down to them, tried to get a name or something, but they wouldn’t tell me anything. They didn’t have badges, I couldn’t see who they were because of their Covid-19 masks, and they had no form of documentation. They just told me to get out of the way and please leave the mountain because I was obstructing their duties. After that I stood at my door with my two-year-old in my arms and watched as they proceeded to take crowbars to our belongings and any unoccupied structure.

“My family is so traumatised. I stay here with my three youngest children. My eldest daughter ran away after my first eviction. That was brutal. Law enforcement held her down and pepper-sprayed her. I was at work and she was here alone. She is so traumatised that she won’t come back here. I don’t have anywhere else to go. Where must I go? I’m born and bred in Ocean View.

“If this land was just developed, I would buy an erf. I’m the chairperson of the Ocean View Backyard Dwellers and I can tell you that Ocean View has too many backyard dwellers… way too many. It’s just not on. I’m not leaving this place. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’ve been on the City of Cape Town’s database for housing for about 16 years now – on the system, including the trust – but they have failed me and my children.

“Look at how I am living with my kids. My roof leaks. When it rains, I can’t sleep on my bed with my two-year old… this is me! The City is taking no ownership for what they are doing and not doing. I’m a South African citizen and we have a right to housing.

“It’s all the more difficult with Covid-19. There is no water here. How can I wash my hands? There are mornings when I can’t even brush my teeth or clean my daughter’s potty because I don’t have water. There are bigger struggles and issues in my life than worrying about catching Covid-19, to be honest. I am a single mother with no help. I work at a call centre in town.

“With Covid-19, I haven’t been able to work because schools and creches are closed, and I have nowhere to send my children. I don’t have parents – they died – so what do I do? I just want to live. I just want to provide a roof over my children’s heads, and a safe environment for them to grow up.”

‘All the guys on the boats are tested before going to sea’

Charter Skipper Grant Scholtz helps unload yellow-fin tuna after three days at sea with commercial fisherman in Hout Bay to earn some income after his tourism-based business dried up under Covid-19 Lockdown. (Photo: Alan van Gysen)

Grant Scholtz, 58, Newlands – charter boat skipper turned commercial fisherman

After three days and nights at sea, the tired and dishevelled crew of the Albatross make quick work of offloading their catch on the unusually quiet dock in Hout Bay harbour. The tuna are heavy, and it takes the collective effort of Grant Scholtz and five other crew to move, weigh and pack the fish into cold storage to be transported. This isn’t Scholtz’s regular work. Like many others around South Africa, he has had to get creative and find new ways to earn an income, and also help others where he can during the lockdown.

“I normally run fishing charters out of Hout Bay. Corporate and individual clients.  Heading 40-50 nautical miles out to sea is very expensive, but we have clients who come six or seven times a year when the fish are here. This is actually one of the best times of year. This is when we usually have the big tuna competitions. Once lockdown happened, the bookings just dried up completely. Come the end of winter, I’m sure you’ll see many boats for sale. To survive and feed our families, some of the charter guys have found work on the commercial fishing boats,” said Scholtz.

“Due to the confined space, contracting the coronavirus is a risk, but all the guys on the boats are tested before going to sea. There was actually a suspected case just the other day. Someone was showing symptoms and the NSRI had to be dispatched to bring the vessel in, and everyone was quarantined. Fortunately, the tests came back negative, but it was good seeing people take it seriously and that there is a protocol in place.

“The fish we’re catching at the moment are yellowfin and longfin tuna. Longfin especially, as it can be frozen for canning. The yellowfin we don’t catch too much of, as the sushi market has dried up both locally with the closure of restaurants, and internationally for export because they can’t fly it out. With the lockdown restrictions in place, buyers have had to shift their business to local home deliveries just to stay alive and keep their staff supported. But it’s a completely different service and product. These businesses were set up for volume. Instead, they have had to change their model, train their staff to process and cut smaller quantities without waste, and move smaller boxes on the road. At the end of the day, guys are fishing and selling just to keep the wheels turning for everyone involved, from crew to staff.

“All the tuna caught out of Hout Bay is rod and reel or bamboo poles. No nets. When we find a shoal we take a couple of fish, not the entire shoal. This is sustainable fishing. If everyone was fishing with rod and reel, fish stocks globally would be healthier. Interestingly, our tuna industry is controlled by a global quota system, and not by any one government. We fall under the Atlantic Tuna Agreement. So they control and divide quotas up.

“It’s hard being out at sea for days on end. I come home now and I sleep for 24 hours. I’m not used to spending days out on the ocean. These ous who fish every single day are hard. A lot of the families who live in the local community work on, or are involved with, the commercial fishing boats. Some are skippers themselves and many are crew members. But not everyone can get on boats and, with the factories being closed due to lockdown, residents need to do something… so they catch fish off-the-books to feed their families. What else can they do? They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. I know what I would be doing if my back was against the wall like this,” said Scholtz.

‘I don’t think we will die from the virus, but we might die of hunger’

Hangberg resident Angelo Joseph talks community aid and subsistence fishing during the crisis of Covid-19. (Photo: Alan van Gysen)

Angelo Joseph, 43, Hangberg, Hout Bay – community elder and construction worker turned subsistence fisherman

Water laps against the concrete dolosse skirting Hout Bay harbour, where Angelo Joseph sits and describes life under lockdown. The 43-year-old father of two was born and raised in the fishing village of Hangberg, which creeps up the mountain slope behind him. He can trace his family lineage across generations of fishermen and families who have lived off this same stretch of sea.

“At the moment people are struggling. There is no work and there is no income to buy food and basics. Those that aren’t getting food parcels have to turn to the sea. That’s what they have been doing for generations. It’s all they know. They know how to take a line, go to the water, catch a fish and feed their family. We have been doing this more than ever since the lockdown,” said Joseph.

“Some people have boats to go out to sea and catch, but those who don’t walk over the mountain and catch from the shore. I believe a minister gave permission for fishing on Wednesdays, but what if a Wednesday is wild and stormy? Do we go fishing and run the risk of being lost to the sea? Look at this T-shirt I am wearing… six people gone! Three from Hangberg and three from Mountain Pleasant in the Overberg. They were my bras! Their boat took on water, the pontoons didn’t want to inflate, and their batteries were stuffed. Another boat came to help but… people panic. Everyone jumped onto that boat and both boats went down near the 12 Apostles. So, we can’t just fish on one specific day. Fortunately, no one has been monitoring this side. When it’s a lekker day everyone wants to catch fish, and there are kids down there swimming and divers in the water. The guys are catching Hotties (Hottentot), crayfish, perlemoen… whatever they can get to feed their families for the day. They can’t sell it because no one is coming out to buy fish.

“But the big-time poachers, they’re playing Russian roulette. The moment they step onto those boats they know the chances of coming back from the sea at night or in bad weather are slim. And they can be caught by the authorities. I see the cops chasing them all the time. In the last month, more than 200 people got arrested and their boats confiscated. Or the sea claims you like my bras here. It’s a ticking time bomb. When you run with heavy guys like that, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

“Some of these boat owners got three boats. I was doing some work the other day and I heard this oke moaning about where they can store 10 tons of fish because the industry is closed. That’s just one boat in one night! And there are 15 boats going out sometimes! It’s hectic. Now, put that into monetary figures… it’s millions. Why can’t that boat owner buy some food and give it to the more vulnerable people? None of them is doing that, so I don’t feel fuck-all for them. But I do feel for the fishermen who step onto those boats to try and make some money to feed their family.

“I don’t think we will die from the virus. We might die of hunger. We have to do what we can and what we know. We have to catch fish, whether it is legal or not,” he said.

‘The alcohol ban has had a critical knock-on effect in South Africa’

Winemaker and local businesswoman Trizanne Barnard checks on her 2020 vintage curently maturing shortly after the stringent restrictions on the wine industy were relaxed enough to allow export only under under Covid-19 Lockdown laws. (Photo: Alan van Gysen)

Trizanne Barnard, 41, Kommetjie – winemaker and local business owner

South Africa is famous for its wine, and the industry has long been a major contributor to the economy. According to SAWIS (SA Wine Industry Information and Systems), the industry brought in R36-billion last year and supports no fewer than 300,000 jobs. Trizanne Barnard is an award-winning winemaker, local businesswoman and mother of two. She spoke about the challenges facing her industry under the lockdown.

“When we entered lockdown it was extremely unclear within our industry what the laws and restrictions actually were, which was very concerning with 30% of our grapes still hanging. We were in the midst of harvest when lockdown was announced. At first, it appeared we weren’t allowed to finish the harvest due to the gathering of large picking teams. Fortunately we have two big bodies – Vinpro (a non-profit company which represents 2,500 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders) and Salba (South Africa Liquor Brand Association), who lobbied and got government to permit finishing the harvest,” said Barnard.

“The big thing for us, though, was that the on-trade and off-trade sales were banned, and in the beginning, exporting too. The wine industry employs 300,000 people and contributes 2% of South Africa’s GDP, so it’s quite a lot… and we don’t know how many jobs this could affect across the country. Vinpro continued to lobby government to allow exports as it made absolutely no sense to ban this in the first place. Government lifted the ban for one week in Level 5 which helped a lot, but then they closed things down again. Fortunately, once Level 4 came into effect, we were able to start exporting properly again, but as you know, local sales are still prohibited.

“This has such a critical knock-on effect in South Africa because the wine industry is completely intertwined with tourism, from restaurants to wine tourism, vineyard visits to wineries etc. There are just so many jobs affected. Fortunately for me personally, I haven’t been as hard hit as some because I export a lot of my wine, but there are others who rely solely on local trade, and they and their staff have been floored. It’s really sad to see how many wine farms are in distress and how many could be up for sale in the months to come.

“Regardless of what work we do, I think we all have to think a lot more creatively these days. I have had to rethink my e-commerce, how I communicate with my clients and even how to do my wine tastings virtually. It does have its upsides though, as we’re all connecting a lot more as a family. It is still a very concerning time though, and I worry a lot about the people around me. Friends and family, and those around in our communities… I wonder constantly if they are doing okay.”

‘There is no other way I can make money… all we can do is pray and wait’

Tavern owner Andre Manuel stands outside his locked premises in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, during Covid-19 Lockdown restriction rules. (Photo: Alan van Gysen)

Andre Manuel, 39, Masiphumelele – tavern owner 

Standing outside Happy Place tavern in a side street off the bustling main road of Masiphumelele, a few kilometres from Kommetjie and Ocean View, Andre Manuel helps his mother-in-law prepare the braai for the day – one of the only means of income for his family at present, while he talks about life as a local business owner, father and husband during this crisis.

“It’s difficult… it’s very difficult. And not just with business, but at home also. As a man you cannot just stay at home, and this is sometimes affecting our relationships with our wives also, you know. They are expecting that as husbands we will go out and come home with something – provide for the family. Now we’re not able to provide for anyone,” said Manuel.

“Other industries have been given a chance to open, but we don’t have this chance yet. We don’t even know when we will be able to open. Because we are in the Western Cape, we don’t know if we will be on Level 3 or stay on Level 4 and when we can trade… we just don’t know. And this is not only affecting me, it is also affecting my workers. I employ four people who work to provide for four other families. I’ve been able to help them with one month’s salary without work, but I cannot do it again. I just don’t have the money. And some of those people have been evicted because they could not pay rent… It’s terrible.

“Normally, when it’s not Covid-19 times, my licenced tavern is open 11:00 to 23:00. Not everyone who comes to the tavern comes to drink. Some come to enjoy sports on TV or to play pool. We receive many different types of people. You see, inside Masi, we are many different nations and peoples. Some, they want PSL soccer, but some, they want overseas matches. Some people don’t want to watch football at home alone. So they come here. Some buy cooldrinks. Some buy liquor. We try and cater for all our different people here.

“Right now, I am looking after seven people in my own family, including my in-laws who are old. I am financially responsible for seven. It’s embarrassing to admit, but my wife and her mother are having to help make us some money by selling braai meat on the street here – pork and chicken and things like that. But it’s not enough to keep us going, really. For you as a man, you are supposed to be a leader, to be strong. To back down and admit you cannot do your job is very painful. It hurts. I’m not able to do anything. My wife has to buy the electricity, and we don’t know when the water bill will come or if we can pay it. It’s a really big problem.

“Right now, there is no other way I can make money. It is difficult to travel, you cannot work on building sites, and you cannot find other work. And the police, they know I am a tavern owner so they drive past here many times a day. The bakkie that I use is well known by the police and people around here. I can do nothing. I cannot transport anything because I have been searched many times. They think maybe I am carrying liquor. I tried once to help an old lady who was sick to get to the hospital, and they stopped me and said I am not an ambulance and I cannot be doing this. So, there is no other way I can make money. Right now all we can do is pray and wait.” DM

How are you coping?

We know that many of our clients have been affected by the issues raised in this article. Because the impact of COVID-19 and the measures to contain it impact every sector and community in our country, there are few who haven’t experienced some consequences. If you have been wrongfully evicted, have suffered violence at the hands of a partner,  or are a tavern owner concerned about your liquor licence or needing assistance as a small business, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za today. We now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

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