President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address of the nation on 23 March 2020 and announcement of a 21-day nationwide lockdown have sparked debate around the intricacies of such a lockdown, especially as to the strictness with which same would be implemented. One of the questions which forms the subject of this debate relates to whether residents of sectional title schemes would enjoy greater liberty during this period than those who reside in free-standing homes.
The President’s announcement and subsequent Regulations published in terms of the National Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 impose various drastic restrictions on specifically the movement of persons. The Regulation states that, amongst other things, every person is confined to his place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good, collecting a social grant or seeking medical assistance. It further provides for a minimum distance of 1 (one) square meter to be maintained between persons going to the shop to buy essential goods. Non-compliance with these restrictions amounts to a criminal offence and a person may be liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding 6 (six) months.
The conduct of residents of sectional title schemes are not specifically addressed in the Regulations, however, it should be interpreted in accordance with the spirit and not the letter of the law.
Below is a set of guidelines that may be implemented by the trustees of the Body Corporate, in contemplation of the above:
- security guards are to remain on duty, as their work constitute an essential service;
- security guards are to be provided with hand sanitiser and masks and all residents returning to the complex are required to sanitise at the gate in their car;
- no visitors to be permitted, to the exception of essential caregivers;
- no deliveries to be permitted, to the exception of groceries and pharmaceuticals, and same to be collected at the gate;
- no handymen to access the premises for the purpose of undertaking repairs, except to the extent that it is necessary to prevent injury, loss of life or damage to the environment;
- domestic staff living in the same dwelling as their employers may continue to work;
- domestic staff living in staff quarters are required to return to their primary residency, as their work are not regarded as an essential service. Domestic staff wishing to remain in the staff quarters may do so but will not be allowed to move between their quarters and their place of work;
- the playgrounds, tennis court, squash court, clubhouse and pool are to be closed; and
- in accordance with a statement published by the SAPS on its official Twitter account on 29 March 2020, no walking, jogging or walking of pets within closed estates/complexes is allowed. This is contrary to what has been communicated to residents of estates/complexes by its trustees, however, the above statement should be taken heed of.
Residents of sectional title schemes should therefore read and apply the President’s speech and the Regulations in line with the purpose for which it was made, being to combat COVID-19 and its disastrous effects. Residents should avoid attempting to think of ‘clever’ ways in which to circumvent these restrictions, and rather isolate themselves as much as possible.