South Africa

Criminal record for not wearing a mask? Not fair, says Human Rights Commission

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will be petitioning for a blanket pardon for minor transgression offenders after the lockdown, as regulation offenders who pay admission of guilty fines will as a result be burdened with a criminal record.

Victor Mavhidula, who heads the Limpopo office, said fines issued for minor transgressions, which range from not wearing a mask to not adhering to social distancing regulations, affect many South Africans. The result, he said, is that a criminal record may result in a person, for example, being disqualified for a job they apply for.

“A minor transgression could leave you with a criminal record for life, which may have detrimental consequences. We don’t see this as being fair, and we are petitioning for a blanket pardon for these transgressions after the lockdown.”

The commission had also made headway in terms of several other issues:

School readiness
By Friday, the commission had visited 10 schools in Limpopo to monitor the readiness of schools for the projected return-to-school date of 1 June. The commission, yet to visit more schools, has appointed hundreds of monitors throughout the country to assist them with the task of ensuring that all schools adhere to Covid-19 safety regulations.

Mavhidula said with the partial opening of schools for Gr 7’s and Gr 12’s looming, that they will monitor a variety of issues, ranging from the water situation at schools, sanitation, preparation and training of teachers and learners, as well as those preparing food for the School Nutrition Programmes, the number of desks and social distancing at schools, the availability of sanitiser and masks for staff and learners. He said they found that the 10 schools visited in Limpopo, had done little in terms of the preparation for 1 June.

SAPS and SADF conduct

Mavhidula said they are aware of some cases of brutality and torture by policemen and members of the SANDF. In one case, a taxi driver had to frog-jump around his taxi in Vhembe, as he was transporting too many passengers at a time. In another incident, passengers were left stranded for the same reason as police inspected the taxi they were travelling in at a roadblock.

“Many passengers do not know the correct procedures, but drivers do know the rules. It is the driver, and not the passengers, that should be punished,” he said.

UIF

Some employers deducted UIF from their workers’ salaries but failed to pay it over to the fund, and these workers now find themselves not being able to get assistance. This should be reported at the Department of Labour, Mavidhula said.

Food parcels
Mavhudula said the SAHRC is worried about food parcel fraud among especially ward councillors who say only those belonging to a certain political party, qualify as beneficiaries. “Food parcel fraud remains a challenge, and distribution must not be abused. Social distancing must also be adhered to at spots where food parcels are distributed, as well as at grants disbursement points. We have taken this up with SASSA, and will monitor adherence at these points.”

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