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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, 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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Lockdown is hard on everyone

Lockdown is hard on everyone, but it’s self-evident that it is harder on some than others. Those who live in cramped, unsanitary conditions, those who live with a violent partner, those whose income has dried up – they all have it far worse than those of us working from comfortable homes. We are very careful not to moan – or to caveat complaints about our deprivation and discomfort with: “but I shouldn’t complain. I’m not in a shack. I have work. I have a garden. I am blessed.” Etc.


Well you know what? It’s OK to find lockdown difficult. It’s OK to miss running, cycling, swimming, hiking. It’s OK to miss your friends, and a friendly drink in a bar, or a meal out. Zoom is great but it’s NOT the same. You don’t have to be a saint, just because you are better off than someone else.
Undoubtedly, someone else is better off than you – has a swimming pool, or a bigger garden, or a fuller wine rack, and it’s OK to be a bit jealous of that. It may not be humanity’s best quality, but it is human. While it’s important to care about our fellow citizens and behave responsibly, and be sensitive to the circumstances of others, we all live our own realities. That’s all we can live.

Recognising and owning your emotional responses to situations is a part of looking after your mental health, so that you can be there for others, whether that is your family or your community. Just because you’re not suffering…doesn’t mean you’re not suffering, whether from inactivity, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, or whatever. If you are worried about your fitness, your investments, your family overseas, these are legitimate concerns. Owning them does not mean you do not care about others, or do not have compassion for those worse off.

In general, the collective response to the threat of COVID-19 and lockdown has been fantastic among South Africans. We are seeing wonderful acts of kindness. But inevitably there is also an element of moral high ground and self-righteousness that has emerged. This can make the rest of us feel we have to be super-selfless, so as not to look callous or indifferent.

At SD Law we have always championed the rights of the less fortunate and vulnerable in society. But we also think everyone is entitled to give themselves a break right now, and acknowledge frustration, irritation, apprehension and stress as a normal, healthy, human response to the pressure we are all under, both individually and together.

Stay safe everyone.


Related reading:

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Lockdown legal update: Parents win court bid to fetch children in another province

Two Cape Town parents, who are divorced, have won legal permission in court to travel in the father’s Land Rover to fetch their young children in a different province, to relieve their struggling grandparents.

Court rules: Exchange of children allowed inter province

The story involves elderly grandparents, doing their utmost to care for their grandchildren – while both suffering medical difficulties themselves – and two children, aged eight and 10, who have been desperate to return home.

The parents, identified in court papers only by initials, challenged the regulated prohibition on “movement between provinces and between metropolitan and district areas”.

Under revised government regulations published on 7 April, the movement of children between divorced parents is permitted – if parents can prove they share responsibilities in their divorce settlements. But that was not the issue in this case.

This case hinged on the court’s interpretation of whether children can legally be moved between “caregivers” – such as grandparents – and parents. The national Department of Social Development argued that this movement was prohibited.

But the Western Cape High Court disagreed (CD v Department of Social Development).

Judge Yasmin Meer ruled such movement was necessary, and is in line with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which demands “the best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning a child”.

The ruling was made on 14 April, and the court papers explained the saga: “The children had travelled to Bloemfontein on 22 March 2020 during the school holidays for a brief visit and were expected to return to Cape Town before the start of the school term on 31 March 2020.

“The lockdown intervened at midnight on 26 March 2020 and the children found themselves locked down with their grandparents in Bloemfontein. The Applicants are divorced.”

‘Childrens’ health and well-being are being put at risk’

Judge Meer wrote that the father, in an affidavit, explained that his own father and mother are 72-years-old and 68-years-old respectively, and are only able to take care of the couple’s children for “short periods”.

The father added that the grandmother suffers from arthritis and having the children around makes it difficult for her.

Meer’s judgment says: “The situation has become strenuous to his parents’ overall personal well-being and affects their ability to properly care for the children and themselves.

“Should the grandparents fall ill of Covid-19 they will not be able to look after the children. The situation will worsen if the lockdown continues. He also expresses concerns that the grandparents will not be able to supervise homework.

Children’s needs

“The First Applicant (the father) is a medical doctor and he states that the childrens’ health and well-being are being put at risk. He points out that he is equipped to deal with the childrens’ needs.

“Finally, he explains that even though the Applicants heard of the lockdown travel ban, they were under the impression that they would be permitted to travel to Bloemfontein to fetch the children and were not aware of the strict extent to which the travel ban would be enforced.”

Meer continued: “A memorandum by the Family Advocate of 7 April 2020, which supports the moving of the children, points out that there is no mention whether the grandparents are employing the Covid-19 precautionary measures, and states that the children require consistent management to ensure that they are abiding by the precautionary requirements of Covid-19 relating to good hygiene, regular sanitising and social distancing. Further to the memorandum, on 8 April 2020 a video conference interview was conducted by the Family Advocate at the request of the Respondent.

“A report compiled by a specialist also urged that the children be returned to Cape Town. From the interview with the grandmother, the report stated that the grandmother has chronic ailments of arthritis and backpain necessitating a schedule 3 medical prescription.

“The lockdown has prevented grandmother’s daily house help from coming in and grandmother has to attend to everything for the household and children. She is currently physically exhausted and her ailments are deteriorating as a result. She is normally accustomed to taking care of the children for shorter intervals and cannot cope in the current circumstances. This is going to impact negatively on her care for the children.

“They are quite active and she cannot manage them. The grandfather provides limited support. The children are going through different emotions and get heartbroken for not being with their parents.

“An interview with the grandfather confirmed his wife’s exhausted state as recorded in the report. He assists in playing with the children.

‘Unrefuted evidence’

Interviews with the children revealed their desire to return home, the judgment continued. The specialist report could not confirm whether the children are at risk in terms of hygiene or that their levels of hygiene are optimal as required.

“The unrefuted evidence makes clear that the task of caring for the children by the grandparents is already proving not to be sustainable and this will only continue and be exacerbated over a further prolonged period. The well-being and physical health of the children in these turbulent times are being placed at risk.

“The best interests of the children would undoubtedly be served if permission were to be granted for them to be fetched to travel from Bloemfontein to Cape Town.”

Judge Meer thus granted the order to allow the applicant to travel to Bloemfontein and fetch his children, and then return to Cape Town with them under strict conditions.

“The First Applicant is authorised and directed to fetch the children at[…], Heuwelsig, Bloemfontein, and to travel back with them to the Western Cape, to the residence of the First Applicant;

“The First Applicant is permitted to sleep over for one night after travelling to Bloemfontein at the paternal grandparents’ home at the above mentioned address, after which the First Applicant and the children shall return to the First Applicant’s address;

“The First Applicant shall travel to Bloemfontein in the First Applicant’s 7-seater Land Rover Discovery vehicle and the First Applicant and the children shall return to Cape Town in the said vehicle;

“This order dispenses with any further need for permit(s) to travel.”

The respondent – the national Department of Social Development – was ordered to pay the couple’s legal costs. Comment has been sought from the department and will be added once received.

Source: News24 and reblogged by DACT (emphasis by SD Law*)

* SD Law, aka Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc., is a law firm of specialised divorce attorneys, and family lawyers in Cape Town, now operating in Johannesburg and Durban.

Related reading:

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Time to hit the “pause” button on evictions?

Elsewhere in the world legislation is ensuring tenants don’t lose their homes due to COVID 19.

Time to hit the "pause" button on evictions. Eviction Lawyers

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. COVID 19 is making everyone anxious for their health. Although the vast majority of patients recover, in South Africa we have a very vulnerable population and a weak health system, so widespread infection will wreak havoc in families and communities. Furthermore, those who have recovered describe the illness as extremely unpleasant, leaving them very weak for a considerable time. It’s to be avoided at all costs, hence the severe restrictions we are all living under and the lockdown that we are about to begin.

Beyond the literal threat the virus presents to health, up and down the country businesses have been closing, particularly in hospitality, and now all activities but essential services must cease while we all stay indoors for three weeks. If employers can’t afford to pay wages, employees will be sent home with no income. How, then, are they meant to pay their bills, including rent?

Some lenience on loan re-payments

As of 23 March, all the major banks have announced some provision for hardship caused by COVID 19. Standard Bank has announced a three-month payment holiday for small businesses with a turnover of less than R20 million, and for full-time students with student loans, to start on 1 April and run until 30 June. For other loans, including mortgage bonds, customers are urged to contact the bank. The other major banks are also assessing the situation and either inviting customers to contact them individually or waiting to see if they need to take more radical steps.

What about tenants?

Homeowners with bonds can hopefully expect some mercy, but what about tenants with rent to pay? In places where the pandemic has a tighter grip, legislative measures have been put in place to protect renters. Around the world, cities in the US and countries including Spain have temporarily halted evictions in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

In England and Wales, the Housing Secretary has said, “Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.” Up in Scotland, similar action is proposed. The Housing Minister said, “No landlord should evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus and we are actively considering how best this can be addressed.”

A spokesperson for a tenants’ association said: “Up and down Scotland, tenants are facing not just a major health crisis, but the prospect of destitution and homelessness too. As their workplaces begin to shut their doors, it is hard to see how tenants who are already struggling to make ends meet will be able to pay their rent. It is unconscionable that anyone should even have to worry about being evicted from their home at this time.”

The situation here in South Africa is similar, and arguably will be worse, given our levels of poverty and disadvantage. At SD Law we support the 31 NGOswho have come together to appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa, his Cabinet and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to follow in the footsteps of our international counterparts and forbid evictions during the current crisis. After all, in a lockdown, it makes no sense at all to put people out on the streets.

Stop the “ejectment” if not the eviction

We understand that there may be situations where the eviction is not only legitimate, but long overdue. Perhaps a tenant has significant arrears with rent or has damaged the property. We’re not advocating for the entire eviction process to be overturned in these circumstances. A fair and just procedure can be resumed in due course, when life returns to normal. But this is not the time to execute a warrant of ejectment, i.e. to put the tenant out.

Look after good tenants

We would also urge landlords to exercise leniency in the case of good tenants who suddenly cannot pay their rent because they have lost their jobs or income due to COVID 19. If a tenant has a history of timely payments and full compliance with the terms of the lease, they should be treated compassionately and a repayment plan worked out when the crisis is past.

From a purely commercial perspective, even if the appeal to our shared humanity is in vain, evicting a good tenant because they can’t pay their rent is unlikely to result in replacement income. No one is looking to move right now. And a property could sit empty far longer than the time it takes for the existing tenant to recover. Good tenants are worth looking after.

Update 27 March:

In the government gazette released last night (26/3/2020), all evictions and execution of attachment orders, both movable and immovable, including the removal of movable assets and sales in execution are suspended with immediate effect for the duration of the lockdown.

Update 26 March:

As we head into a lockdown that will straddle two months, you may be wondering what will happen if a lease expires during the three-week period? In short, no movement is allowed. A tenant cannot be forced to leave a rented property even if another tenant is lined up to move in. The incoming tenant also won’t be able to vacate their current premises. The extraordinary measures in place (see the government gazette for full list of restrictions) take precedence over other contracts in place, such as leases. Technically, landlords and tenants can pick up where they left off as soon as the lockdown is over, but in reality it may be easier for everyone simply to extend the lease by one month and push the moving-out or moving-in date back to 1 May. Everyone in the country is in the same situation.

Rent should still be paid for any occupancy beyond the lease expiry. If  the tenant is in financial difficulties, then a payment plan should be negotiated.

We’ve mentioned a “pause” on evictions to protect tenants who may be financially compromised as a result of COVID 19. But what about evictions that were already scheduled before this crisis emerged? Although the gazette does not mention eviction specifically, it is fair to assume that no movement means no movement. In effect, normal life is put on hold – paused – for three weeks. it will resume on 17 April.

Contact Eviction Lawyers for help

We are eviction lawyers in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  We act for both landlords and tenants and uphold the rights of each to a fair and satisfactory tenancy. In these uncertain times, we appeal to everyone to act with empathy and compassion. If you are worried about your tenancy or your tenants, contact Simon at Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email

Further reading:

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Caging the Viper: COVID-19 and South African Law

Cape Town Law Firm

By Simon David Dippenaar

The State President’s announcement of a state of national disaster to deal with the Corona Virus pandemic, on 15th March 2020, will allow extra-ordinary measures, such as the closure of ports of entry, primary and secondary schools and the prohibition on gatherings of more than one hundred people. In such a time of panic and hysteria, it is easy to overlook the fact that laws still apply, and civil rights are more likely to be threatened. This post considers the position should the government take the next logical step, and declare a national state of emergency.

In terms of Section 37(1) of our Bill of Rights, A State of Emergency may be declared only in terms of an Act of Parliament, and only when—

1. the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency; and
2. the declaration is necessary to restore peace and order.

It is arguable that a global pandemic does indeed amount to a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation, however, this provides no guidance as to the shape such a state of emergency may take.

Draft State of Emergency Regulations have been in place since October 2017, compiled by the South African National Defence Force, and provide further insight.

These allow soldiers, police and intelligence operatives to order anyone to leave a place, and to use necessary force to compel same if they believe it is for the good of public safety. These operatives can demand anyone to provide their names, addresses and documentary proof of his or her identity. The security forces may on reasonable opinion detain someone or arrest a person without a warrant, and may question any detained or arrested person.

The President may block any computer-related resources, communication or activity. These would, no doubt, be tailored to meet the existing situation, but their utility in quarantining recalcitrant infected persons, in providing assistance to tracer teams and the removal of fear-mongers is more than apparent.

While I support giving the relevant persons as free a hand as possible, such powers can easily be abused in a panic. They also do not amount to free reign.

A State of Emergency may only last for 21 days, though may be extended, detention may be challenged in court, and the detained person released unless it is necessary to continue the detention to restore peace and order.

Any derogation from the Bill of Rights may only be one that is strictly required by the emergency, there may be no derogation from the rights to life and dignity, and only partial derogation from the rights to equality, freedom and security of the person, freedom from slavery, servitude and forced labour, the rights of the child, and the rights of arrested, detained and accused persons.

It is hoped that those dealing with the crisis will confine themselves to the parameters of the law, and these are suitable to deal with the pandemic.

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