Letter to the South African Government

“We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own. The Igbo, always practical, put it concretely in their proverb Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: ‘He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.’”

—Chinua Achebe, The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays (Kindlepaperbackhardcoveraudio CD)

Not three decades after apartheid ended, you are considering proposed amendments to the National Health Act of 2003’s 2017 regulations that would resurrect this shameful stain on South African history:

1882: Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions: Amendment (National Health Act)
1883: Regulations Relating to Public Health Measures in Points of Entry (International Health Regulations Act)
1884: Regulations Relating to the Management of Human Remains (National Health Act)
1885: Regulations Relating to Environmental Health (National Health Act)

“Apartness” in Afrikaans, “apartheid” is the institutionalized system of segregation. You can change the definitions of the targeted parties, but you cannot change the discriminatory rot underlying this vile legislation.

Sick Until Proven Healthy

(long version here)

The People’s Lawctivist Sabelo Sibanda explains that under the proposed amendments:

“These regulations basically declare a scenario where everyone will end up in one of three categories where you are either deemed to be a case, or you are considered a suspect, or, alternatively, you are considered as one who has been in contact with someone who is a case.

“And once you fall into any one of those three categories, this is what this means to you. Government says, ‘You may not refuse to be medically examined,’ whereby the medical examination process is whatever government will determine.

“Second to that, you may not refuse to be put in quarantine or put in isolation. And the requirements for quarantine and isolation are such that the majority of the people of South Africa will not be able to self-quarantine so they have to be put in a state institution.

“Further to that, and most critical, is that you may not refuse to take whatever medication that the government says you should take. Your freedom—which is supposed to be guaranteed and protected by the same act in as far as the right to be informed—is taken away. You are caught in a situation whereby government has full control.

“Once you are put in this isolation space, this quarantine space, you don’t have the ability to determine when and how you get out. It will be up to government to decide.

“So now the country of South Africa will be under a permanent state of disaster where masking will be permanent, where social distancing is permanent, through the National Health Act.”

In case you’ve forgotten what it looks like for your government to discriminate against citizens under the guise of a “state of emergency” and to demand people’s papers, here are a couple of reminders:

Today, that passport looks like a QR code on your phone.

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