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On 12 July 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, as an “additional measure to reduce the pressure on hospitals”, the implementation of a curfew between 9pm and 4 am (except in cases of permitted workers and medical emergencies).

This immediately followed his announcement, however, of the suspension of the sale and distribution of alcohol with immediate effect, citing a clear evidence of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma which placed “substantial pressure on hospitals”, where he noted that this mainly took place at night.

Curfews are a severe restriction on the right to freedom of movement, and must have a justifiable purpose to be constitutionally valid. Is there any tangible purpose to this curfew, particularly if the alcohol ban is in effect to prevent pressure on hospitals?

The usual purpose of the curfew would be to prevent or reduce the spread of the virus when people would be out in public areas, but is there much cause for concern of the spread of the virus between 9pm and 4am given the existing restrictions in the regulations? Curfews are usually enforced in more extreme situations, and at earlier times in the day to ensure that people reach the safety of their homes.

Is this an overreach of governmental power that only increases the risk of unnecessary arrests?

Author – Murray Taylor

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