Covid-19 and open justice

This page highlights how African judiciaries are maintaining access to justice and the principle of ‘open justice’ amidst court closures and restrictions on movement (“lockdowns”) to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic . At the moment the page covers South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe. More to follow …

South Africa

Currently in lockdown until 30/04/2020

17/04/2020 – Consolidated Regulations in terms of Section 27(2), 17 Apr 2020consolidation of prior Covid-19 regulations up to 16 April 2020.

16/04/2020 – Amendment of Regulations in terms of Section 27(2), GG 43232, RG 11089, GoN 465, 16 Apr 2020 – amendment of prior regulations to extend their application to 30/04/2020.

03/04/2020 – Administrator of Dr J S Moroka Municipality and Others v Kubheka (1170/20) [2020] ZAMPMHC 3 (3 April 2020) – This case applied the earlier Covid-19 Regulations (those issued on 26/03/2020) to hear a claim relating to access to portable water. The case is notable for imposing sanctions on legal practitioners who had attended the hearing without obtaining valid licences to travel during the lockdown as required by paragraph 9 of the Covid-19 Regulations.

02/04/2020 – Amendment to the Regulations issued in terms of section 27 (2) R 446 Government Gazette 34199 of 4 April 2020 These Amendments make provision for legal practitioners to travel across provincial borders were authorised (and subject to obtaining a permit) to provide essential services.

31/03/2020 -Government Gazette no. 43191 of 31 March 2020. GN 440, Directions issued in terms of Regulation 10 of the Regulations under the Disaster Management Act 2020 – These directions superseded those issued on 26/03/2020. Among other matters, the directions provided access to the courts for “litigants, accused, witnesses, and persons accompanying, or persons who may be needed to provide support such as those accompanying children, victims of domestic violence or sexually abused persons and persons with disabilities, family members, and members of the media.”

26/03/2020 – Unreported case number 1079/2020 in the Ex-Parte application of Carel Willem van Heerden – a case in which a legal practitioner was refused permission to travel during the Covid-19 lockdown to attend the funeral of a family member.

26/04/2020 – Regulation 43167, Government Gazette 26 March 2020, notice 418, Directions issued in terms of Regulation 10 of the Regulations Under the Disaster Management Act 2002 – These regulations dealt with, among other matters, the permissions that legal practitioners must obtain to travel to court for essential business during the lockdown.

18/04/2020 – Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 2002 – These Regulations empower the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services to “issue directions to
address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in all courts and court precincts
in the Republic of South Africa.”


In partial lockdown until the end of April 2020

21/04/2020 – Judiciary to upscale justice delivery through increased use of technology; to delay resumption of open court activities – “…we have come to the conclusion that while it is prudent to upscale court activities, it will not be wise to have open court sessions at this time …  henceforth, court proceedings can only be conducted remotely through increased use of technology since allowing courtroom interactions would be inimical to the interests of Kenyans as it would greatly endanger public safety.”

15/04/2020 – National Council on the Administration of Justice press statement – outlining measures to scale criminal and civil hearings and delivery of judgments in open court.

01/04/2020 – Response of Kenya’s National Council on the administration of Justice

15/03/2020 –emergency measures announced by Kenya’s National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus.

This page will be regularly updated throughout the course of the Covid crisis