Legal opinion on the implication of CoronaVirus (COVID-19)

It is common cause that the South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, declared Coronavirus Covid-19 a national state of disaster in terms Section 27(1) of Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 ‘Act’ with immediate effect as of the Sunday, 15th March 2020. This means the government of South Africa does not have a contingency plan that adequately respond to the virus, or contain the spread of the virus. There is also no relevant legislation that could address this virus, and that the circumstances warrant this declaration. As a result the inter-ministerial command has been established to embark on a plan to deal with the virus during this state of disaster. In terms of the act, the state of disaster shall exists until contingency measures and plans are made by the government. This declararation covers the whole of the Republic of South Africa. But during this declaration, regulations will be passed by the government or relevant minister ‘minister’ regulating the behaviour and arrangements.

The minister’s regulations will only be made with an intent to protect the property of the citizens, assisting, providing relief and protecting the public, dealing with the destruction of the disaster and other effects, including prevention and combation of any disruption caused by the virus.

Further section 60 of the act has set up criminal offences for non-compliance with the act, in which an offender may be found guilty in court of law for such offence and be fined or imprisoned to a prison for a period not exceeding six (6) months, or both as the court may decide. People are therefore advised to comply with the Act and measures which will be set up under the provisions of the Act and regulations as will be passed, or as they are.

While people have concluded contracts and agreements, This virus and its effects can be categorised as a force majeure which is beyond the powers of contracting party, thus it will have a direct consequences on contracts and the people’s performance on agreements. People under any form of contracts, such as instalment sale agreements, lease or so forth, are urged to obtain independent legal opinion or written undertaking from their contracting parties about how the agreements will be complied with during the declaration’s subsistence. In respect of agreements where the South African legislation do not apply, it should be noted that a force majeure is part of common law, and its applications extends beyond the jurisdiction of South Africa. For more information on the virus please visit these websites: http://www.nicd.ac.za/ and https://www.gov.za/NovelCoronavirus

 

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 Photo credit by Santa Barbara Unified School District

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