Bheki Cele

Police Minister Bheki Cele / Image via GCIS

Level 3 family visits? Confusion as Mthembu says ‘yes’, Cele says ‘no’

South Africans concerned that government has a conflicting understanding of the Disaster Management Act.

Bheki Cele

Police Minister Bheki Cele / Image via GCIS

As Level 3 lockdown looms beyond the weekend, confusion regarding personal movement and family visits has already caused a stir.

South Africans preparing for relaxed lockdown regulations were hoping for clarity and a unified directive from the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) when ministers briefed the nation on Thursday afternoon. Following a long-awaited announcement by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, which elaborated on Level 3 lockdown regulations and their ratification, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster convened to detail departmental remits.

Mthembu says you can visit your family

During this conference, Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, who has been tasked with chairing most of the NCCC briefings, claimed that visits to family members who were located nearby would be permitted. Mthembu said:

“The way the regulations and directions stand now is that we can visit our families in the neighbourhood. The only problem is when we must go beyond the province — the district and metro — where we live.

For the purpose of visiting our families, if there is a need, yes, we can still get permits to go and visit our families.”

‘Read the regulations’: Cele argues against social visits

However, Police Minister Bheki Cele’s interpretation of the Disaster Management Act, relating, in particular, to visiting relatives, was vastly different to that of Mthembu’s. Cele argued that under no circumstances — apart from funerals — were relatives permitted to gather together in each other’s homes.

Cele directed media queries, and, ostensibly, Mthembu, to regulation 33 of the Disaster Management Act, saying:

“All categories permitted appear there and visiting — your friends, your peers, your girlfriend, boyfriend — does not appear on the regulations.

Social visits are absolutely not allowed under Level 3.”

What do the Level 3 lockdown laws say?

As correctly pointed out by Police Minister Cele, the Disaster Management Act makes no provision for social visits of any kind, including family. The only allowance sanctioned under section 33 is ‘caring for an immediate family member’.

There newly-added regulation which allows for religious gatherings, of no more than 50 people, has, however, added fuel to the fire.

Many citizens, including leaders of opposition parties, have blasted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s move to allow churches to operate while still restricting family get-togethers.