Government has now criminalised the non-compliance of wearing masks in public. When the national lockdown was first instated at the end of March, South Africans were encouraged to wear masks, but this has now been enforced as a result of “bad behaviour”.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said the obligation of ensuring citizens wear masks has now been placed on the shoulders of compliance officers in public buildings and not individuals exclusively. He announced this during a media briefing after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address on Sunday evening [July 12].
This regulation means that those who are in charge of buildings such as churches and workplaces are responsible for ensuring all those who enter and remain inside are wearings masks.
“At this stage, it’s compulsory, but the obligation and duty have been put on the store managers, building owners and those responsible for various places that members of the public congregate or find themselves in,” said Lamola. “It’s a decision not taken lightly, but necessitated by various misdemeanours found that even people in shops defy that they can’t wear a mask and there is nothing that the shop owner can do because it is not the law.”
Good morning. Our biggest weapon right now is behavioural change. Keep to social distancing, wear your mask and sanitize or wash your hands regularly. #StaySafe
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) July 14, 2020
“It must be embarrassing to move around without wearing a mask; it must be cool to move with a mask,” Lamola quipped.
The minister also said they are still fine-tuning some aspects of the regulations, but warned South Africans to remember that there is no difference between being arrested and being fined as both equate to a criminal offence. Government will also carefully monitor whether the mask regulation is complied with – if not, the responsibility will shift to individuals to ensure they are wearing masks in public or communal spaces.