Socio-legal Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa
Annette Lansink (South Africa) Dr Elijah Tukwariba Yin (Ghana) Victor TK Morris (Liberia)
Annette will be talking on the fragility of human rights, the unequal impact of the COVID-19 measures on the poor, the shift of power from the legislature to the executive and the possibility of enhancing democratic legitimacy during a pandemic. The South African response to COVID-19 had the effect of restricting a wide ranging of constitutionally and internationally protected human rights. Although no state of emergency was declared in South Africa, Ministers were given far-reaching powers under a national state of disaster which has now been in force for almost twenty months. A few of these measures were challenged in court raising questions about their rationality, necessity and proportionality in an open and democratic society. But also, about the role of the courts in a pandemic and judicial deference to the government. Moreover, the measures affected the vulnerable the most. The homeless, persons living in informal settlements, those without access to water, those who had to use public transport carried an unequal share of the burden. Women were affected by the ongoing pandemic of gender-based violence. During the early phase of the strict lockdown, the heavy-handedness and brutality of security forces added to the woes of residents in townships.
The talk will be about the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, Ghana and Liberia. It will look at human rights implications of the measures taken by governments in these countries. The presentation on South Africa will look at sweeping powers given to the executive and the unequal impact of the measures on the poor. The presentation on Ghana focuses on how COVID-19 is impacting on prisons in Ghana and how the legal rights of prisoners are mediated. The presentation on Liberia will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on education but also how the lessons learned from the experience of the Ebola public health emergency prepared the country to deal with the pandemic.
Almost all prisons in Ghana are overcrowded with some cells housing between 8-20 inmates instead of 4 as recommended by the United Nations. These prisons lack basic facilities to promote the health and safety of prisoners. One would expect that with the poor prison conditions, the outbreak and upsurge of COVID-19 in Ghana will have dire consequences on the prison population. This was not the case as the prison administration, formally and informally, collaborated with inmates and the mainstream society to prevent COVID-19 prison outbreak. However, in an attempt to manage the pandemic, the legal rights of most inmates were violated. In this presentation, I will show how COVID-19 is impacting prisons in Ghana and how the legal rights of prisoners are mediated.
Liberia was badly affected by the Ebola virus in 2014 and since then, the country and its citizens have been very meticulous on issues of a pandemic amid the challenges in the provision of basic health services across the country. Though the COVID-19 hasn't had a drastic impact on the public as compared to other African and European countries, Liberia's education system was affected by the government restrictions on the COVID-19. Schools had to close unexpectedly thereby affecting the academic calendar. The worst-case scenario was the inability of high schools to complete the academic curriculum when senior high students were to sit a region academic evaluation. The pandemic also affected the local and regional trade thereby impacting the lives of ordinary Liberians and the informal sector. Currently, there are mix reactions among Liberians as it relates to the taking of the COVID-19 vaccines. Uncertainty hangs over the state of the pandemic and vaccination because of the level of information being passed down by health authorities.