By Chloe Reichel
South Africa has faced a devastating national COVID-19 epidemic, with over 1.5 million confirmed cases, and over 50,000 confirmed deaths.
The true toll, in terms of cases and deaths, is likely much higher. Research shows the country has recorded 150,000 excess deaths since May 2020.
The pandemic has also profoundly affected South Africans’ constitutionally recognized rights.
Since the start of the pandemic, the country has experienced varying degrees of lockdown, which, at different points, included a curfew, bans on the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and the closure of most businesses. The lockdown has been enforced strictly, resulting in hundreds of thousands of arrests for violations.
Mark Heywood highlighted some of these rights concerns last June in “Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and COVID-19 in South Africa,” a contribution to Bill of Health‘s digital symposium on global responses to COVID-19.
I spoke with Heywood in late March 2021 to get an update on the state of human rights and the rule of law in South Africa one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Our conversation, which has been edited and condensed, follows.