South Africa to clear criminal records amid Covid lockdown

  • By Nomsa Maseko
  • BBC News, Johannesburg

image Caption,

More than 100,000 people have died from Covid in South Africa

South Africa’s parliament has passed a bill that would expunge the criminal records of people convicted of violating COVID-19 lockdown laws.

South Africa had some of the strictest restrictions in the world, with more than 400,000 people arrested for violations including not wearing masks, drinking alcohol and breaking the curfew.

Those who pleaded guilty and paid the fine will now have their records cleared.

The bill has been widely welcomed by South Africans.

It has to be approved by the National Council of Provinces, and then signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, but there is no doubt that it will become law.

When the Judicial Affairs Amendment Bill was debated in Parliament, it received wide political support.

The opposition African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), which supported the bill, highlighted how having a criminal record affects some people’s chances of getting a job.

ACDP MP Steven Swart said, “We should never again have unreasonable regulations passed without parliamentary intervention or oversight.”

In April 2021, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that 411,309 people were arrested for violating lockdown rules.

It is unclear how many of those arrested were ultimately convicted.

However, not all MPs voted to pass the bill into law.

The leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) welcomed parts of the bill but said it could not support the bill as a whole.

EFF MP Veronica Mente said, “The prosecution and harassment that have resulted from Disaster Management Act regulations during the pandemic demonstrate the depths to which our judiciary system can be used to severely limit individuals’ rights. “

“May this law never again be used to serve sinister purposes, as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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