South Africa approves legislation to erase criminal records for COVID lockdown offenders.
Over 400,000 people were arrested for violating COVID lockdown regulations.
Those who admitted guilt and paid fines will now have their records expunged.
The Parliament of South Africa has approved legislation that will erase criminal records for individuals previously convicted of violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
South Africa implemented some of the world’s strictest lockdown measures, resulting in over 400,000 arrests for infractions such as not wearing masks, alcohol consumption, and curfew violations.
Those who acknowledged their guilt and paid fines will now have their records expunged, a move widely embraced by the South African population.
The bill, known as the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, received substantial political support during its parliamentary debate.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), an opposition party that endorsed the bill, emphasized how a criminal record could negatively impact people’s employment prospects.
The bill is currently pending approval by the National Council of Provinces and requires the signature of President Cyril Ramaphosa to become law, although there is little doubt that it will ultimately be enacted.
“May we never again have such irrational regulations which were passed without parliamentary intervention or oversight,” said ACDP MP Steven Swart.
In April 2021, Police Minister Bheki Cele reported that 411,309 individuals had been apprehended for violating lockdown rules.
The exact number of convictions among those arrested remains uncertain.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that not all Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favor of passing the bill into law.
The left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) expressed approval for certain aspects of the bill but ultimately chose not to endorse the bill in its entirety.
“The prosecutions and persecutions that came about as a result of the regulations flowing from the Disaster Management Act during the pandemic demonstrated the depth into which our judiciary system could be used to severely limit the rights of individuals,” said EFF MP Veronica Mente.
“May the law never again be used in pursuit of sinister motives such as what happened during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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