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Masaajid may open to hold gatherings at community engagement

Changes have been made to South Africa’s Adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown regulations, allowing for community gatherings hosted by politicians, councillors, religious and traditional leaders “to deal with emergency matters”. This is in response to the civil unrest, typified by widespread looting, in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

As South Africa grapples with a third wave of Covid-19 infections, violent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal has led to the wanton destruction of property. What started as a protest to demand the release of imprisoned former President Jacob Zuma on Friday has rapidly developed into full-scale rioting, with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed to assist police in restoring order.

By Wednesday, more than 1,200 people had been arrested. At least 72 people had been killed in stampedes and clashes with security forces.

The unrest coincides with the extension of Adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown regulations, which were first implemented at the end of June. The laws which limit movement and prohibit social gatherings will last until 25 July.

Chaos in the two provinces and the need for urgent community engagement has led to changes in the regulations which were gazetted on Wednesday. The original regulations prohibited social gatherings, including political events, traditional council meetings, and faith-based congregations. The laws also disallowed travel – other than for work purposes – to and from Gauteng.

The newly gazetted regulations, signed by Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, make allowances for gatherings convened “to deal with emergency matters” such as the current civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Gatherings at community engagements, hosted by members of parliament, members of provincial legislatures, councillors, leaders of political parties, religious leaders and traditional leaders to deal with emergency matters are permitted,” reads the amendments to Adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown regulations.

The changes come amid calls for government to institute a State of Emergency to deal with the unrest, as political leaders scramble to ease tensions in their communities.

Similar changes have been made to the travel regulations affecting Gauteng, which accounts for more than half of the country’s Covid-19 caseload. The same hosts identified as being exempt from the gathering ban will now be able to leave and enter Gauteng “for the exercise of oversight responsibilities and community engagements.”

According to the Association of Muslims Professionals of South Africa (AMPSA), masaajid may open to hold gatherings at community engagement.

  1. In terms of Government Notice R.612 published on 14th July 2021,
    Regulation 21 of the Regulations issued under the Disaster
    Management Act 57 of 2002 on 27 June 2021 has been amended by
    the insertion of the following subregulation (4A):
    “(4A) Gatherings at community engagements, hosted by members of
    Parliament, members of Provincial Legislatures, councillors, leaders of
    political parties, religious leaders and traditional leaders to deal with
    emergency matters are permitted.”
  2. It is apparent that the Regulations have been amended to enable
    various leaders within communities to deal with the current looting and
    violent destruction of property. In order to do so, the Regulations now
    permit gatherings at community engagements to take place. These of
    course must be hosted by the leaders identified in the amended
    Regulation.
  3. The Regulations do not identify the place at which the community
    engagements are to be held. In the absence of that identification, we
    are of the view that community engagements and gatherings at such
    engagements may accordingly take place anywhere, including those
    places that were previously required to be closed. This is so because
    Regulation 24(1) only directs the closure of places or premises where
    prohibited gatherings may occur and since a gathering at a community
    engagement to deal with emergency matters is now allowed, places of
    worship such as mosques may be opened to achieve this purpose.
  4. It follows that masaajid, which were compelled to close by the earlier
    Regulations, would have to be opened to enable a religious leader
    such as an imam to host a gathering at a community engagement in
    order to deal with the current unrest and the emergency that it
    presents.
  5. Imams are self – evidently religious leaders.
  6. Any gathering at a community engagement hosted by an imam to deal
    with the emergency that has manifested is now permitted.
  7. In addition, the amended Regulation does not specify how religious
    and other leaders are to deal with the emergency at a community
    engagement. That, it seems, has been left for decision by the leaders
    identified in the amended Regulation by way of the exercise of a
    reasonable discretion.
  8. It follows that if an imam wishes to host a gathering at a community
    engagement at a masjid to deal with the emergency by engaging in
    prayer, that such a gathering would be permitted. There is no better
    way to deal with an emergency such as the current by a religious
    leader than by seeking the help of the Almighty Allah.
  9. Our deen enjoins us to turn to Allah in prayer at all times, and more
    especially in times of crisis.
  10. There can thus be no effective community engagement by a religious
    leader to deal with the current situation unless that process includes
    the elements of prayer and supplication.
    Issued electronically by AMPSA Shurah Council

Source: Business Insider; AMPSA

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03 Dhul hijjah

19 July 2021 / 08 – Zul Hijjah 1442