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The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill passed in the National Assembly this week, is a major victory for South Africans and the civil rights organisation AfriForum and is a critical step in the process of cleaning the slate of people with Covid-19 State of Disaster criminal records. This follows after the organisation applied continuous pressure for the expunging of criminal records of individuals previously convicted for violating Covid-19 regulations during the period of lockdown enforcement.
By 2021, the police had apprehended over 400 000 individuals who were in contravention of lockdown restrictions. Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed these statistics at the time.
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, hinted at the idea of introducing the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill in Parliament in June 2022 already, seeking to erase the criminal records of those who had violated Covid-19 lockdown rules, but the process stalled for months.
AfriForum wrote to the Minister in August this year demanding clarity regarding the government’s plans to provide amnesty to citizens found guilty of transgressing lockdown regulations during the National State of Disaster for Covid-19. AfriForum also specifically inquired about whether the Minister was aware of any steps being taken by the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to provide a form of amnesty to these individuals, or whether the Minister was considering taking any steps to propose legislation or enact regulations to provide a form of amnesty and implement an expungement process in this regard.
After several more enquiries by AfriForum’s legal team, the Minister responded by stating that the bill was tabled in parliament.
Apart from the EFF and Al Jama-ah, all twelve other political parties represented in the National Assembly, voted in favour of the bill. The bill will now proceed to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
“AfriForum will continue to monitor this matter until the bill is finally approved by the National Council of Provinces. It is unacceptable that people have been given criminal records for violating ludicrous lockdown regulations. Some of these individuals have been unable to find employment because they were branded as criminals and others could not travel abroad for the same reason,” says Jacques Broodryk, AfriForum’s Spokesperson for Community Safety.
Issued by AfriForum