The high court in Pretoria on Friday declared that all people in SA are entitled to a number of rights which cannot be suspended, even during the Covid-19 state of disaster.
These include the right to life, the right not to be tortured in any way and the right not to be treated or punished in an inhumane and cruel way.
The court made these orders in an application brought by the family of Collins Khosa, the 41-year-old man who died after he was allegedly beaten by soldiers and metro police outside his home in Alexandra on April 10.
The family had sought these orders to ensure that no other members of the public would suffer the same fate as Khosa.
Khosa’s life partner, Nomsa Montsha, stated in an affidavit that she was at home with Khosa and two others when SANDF members accused Khosa of violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Montsha said Khosa was taken outside the yard, where the soldiers poured beer on his head and body, slammed him against the cement wall, and kicked, slapped and punched him. He died a few hours later.
His family approached the high court in Pretoria on May 2 for a number of orders, including that soldiers and metro police who were in the vicinity of his house at the time be disarmed and suspended.
They also asked for an order compelling defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and police minister Bheki Cele to develop and publish a code of conduct and operational procedures for soldiers and police deployed during the state of disaster.
And they sought an order compelling the state to establish a freely accessible mechanism for civilians to report allegations of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment committed by the police, army and metro police during the state of disaster.
Judge Hans Fabricius granted all these orders on Friday.
He also ordered that members of the SANDF, police and metro police departments remain bound by the law to use only the minimum force that is reasonable to perform an official duty.
Fabricius awarded costs to the three people who brought the application, including Montsha.
In his judgment, Fabricius said the urgent application before him was of an unusual nature as it asked him to restate the law on the rights of all people.
Fabricius said all parties before court, including himself, were in agreement that the Covid-19 lockdown was necessary.
“The public is, however, entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, whether rich or poor.”
He said the public was entitled to the right to life and everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person.
Fabricius said the declaratory orders sought by the family “can assist in clarifying legal and constitutional obligations in a manner that promotes the protection and enforcement of the constitution and its values”.