Politics

Covid-19: 'It is not a negotiation - it's the law' - Bheki Cele's stern warning on ignoring new regulations

Covid-19: 'It is not a negotiation - it's the law' - Bheki Cele's stern warning on ignoring new regulations

Police minister Bheki Cele has warned there will be no negotiating with those holding gatherings of more than 100 people, or shebeens and pubs selling alcohol beyond 6pm to more than the regulated 50 people.

Cele said officers would enforce the law under the state of national disaster.

The government has banned all public gatherings, even funerals, of more than 100 people to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The new regulations under the state of disaster came into effect on Wednesday, 

“It is not a negotiation — it is the law,” said Cele, adding that community members should not waste police resources by seeking permission to have gatherings of over 100 people.

He said officers would take a hard stance against all gatherings beyond 100 and contraventions of the limit of 50 where alcohol was served.

“We are looking at 50 with a jaundiced eye. Fifty [where alcohol is sold] may still be too big.” He said that government could decrease this number “depending on how you behave”. 

Government would strictly enforce the ban on selling alcohol after 6pm and before 9am during week and beyond 1pm on weekends.

“Organisers for events that break the law will be liable. We will make a call for you to disperse, if not the law enforcement will act,” Cele said, adding that the government would not tolerate street parties.

The regulations, effective immediately, explain when people will be committing offences or will be liable for a penalty under the state of national disaster.

Anyone ignoring instructions to prevent gatherings of more than 100 people or more than 50 where alcohol is served faces a fine, jail time or both.

“Nobody consumes alcohol anywhere in the country after six except in your house,” Cele said.

The government is taking unprecedented measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 which has been declared a global pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that there were 150 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SA.

Under the state of national disaster, which lasts for three months or longer if needed, many rights have been suspended and the state is at the centre of combating the spread of the pandemic.

“Any person who intentionally exposes another person to Covid-19 may be prosecuted for an offence, including assault, attempted murder or murder,” the regulations read.

A person may be imprisoned for up to six months and face a fine if they misrepresented being infected with Covid-19 and will be guilty of an offence.

“Any person who (a) convenes a gathering, (b) permits more than 50 persons at premises where liquor is sold and consumed, or (c) hinders, interferes with, or obstructs an enforcement officer in the exercise of his or her powers, or the performance of his or her duties in terms of these regulations, is guilty of an offence and, on conviction, liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment,” states the regulation.

Law enforcement is also not sparing people who spread fake news about Covid-19 in their list of offences and penalties in the wake of the national disaster.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola said: “We want to see maximum compliance.” 

Co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the regulations were now law and people had to comply.