Editor’s note - June 2020 June 2020

By MYRLE VANDERSTRAETEN, Published in Editor's Note


Over a third of the articles in without prejudice this month are COVID-19 related. Since life is currently dictated by regulations surrounding the virus, this comes as no surprise. But what these articles do is to highlight how wide COVID-19's reach is – and the articles barely scratch the surface.

South Africans remain perplexed by the reasoning for some of the bans; those in power appear equally confused as they contradict each other. Of course, we all have our own views about why various industries should remain closed while others are permitted to open. Some are desperate and the black market has thrived as a result (it is reported that 90% of smokers have managed to buy cigarettes under lockdown) while government has lost out. In keeping with the ability of those who operate outside the law to thrive in any circumstances, when owners of a particular liquor store went to open their store to get ready for Level 3 sales, apparently a tunnel had been dug under the floor and the thieves had removed R300 000 worth of liquor. The owner is offering a R50 000 reward for the arrest of the criminals.

Although remote trials have taken place globally and are being hailed as part of the 4th Industrial Revolution and our 'new world', not everyone agrees. In America, it was reported in Law 360 it was reported that District Judge Rodney Gilstrap is concerned. He says remote trials requires a delicate balancing act, "This is a very difficult set of first impression circumstances where you're trying to balance a constitutional mandate and an interest in speedy justice with real public health concerns." He is not alone. Justice could be put on hold for many and in the US it is possible that keeping within the social distancing rules and general safety procedures required under COVID-19 will result in most (all) jury trials being delayed to August/September – at the earliest.

The reason for the tragic death of George Floyd is not lost on anyone, anywhere. That some people believe themselves to be better than others is not new, nor is it new that for some, this view is rooted in the belief that one race is superior to another. We carry an article on police incompetence in this issue and the incidents to which this is related are not entirely based on race. However, South Africa certainly has its own history of racial incidents to damn and shame. It is beyond comprehension that not one of the three officers who were with Derek Chauvin intervened. We concur with Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo when he said, 'Silence and inaction, you're complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened ... that's what I would have hoped for'. And decent people will agree with Houston's – Floyd's home town – Police Chief Art Acevedo when he said, 'I am just hopeful that we have reached a watershed moment here and we will see some meaningful reform in terms of the way that we deal with bad police officers and the way we deal with police officers involved in criminal conduct that completely undermines the good work of the vast majority of police officers'. Tragically George Floyd's death is at risk of being obscured by an emphasis on the looting and rioting, which will be reframed by those who want to obscure the real problems of racism.

Will environmentalists be able to put together some stats that will tell the story of the impact of the global lockdown on the environment and what can be retained as the world re-emerges? Unrelated to the lockdown, but good news for coral reefs, was the announcement in May that scientists have 'trained microalgae to tolerate higher sea temperatures and could help save the coral reefs'. It was reported that Australia's Great Barrier Reef has endured its third mass bleaching event in five years. It is hoped that if the heat tolerance of the resident algae is raised, the coral reefs would be able to survive the rising ocean temperatures. Madeleine van Oppen of Melbourne University told The Times: "We found that the heat tolerant microalgae are better at photosynthesis and improve the heat response of the coral animal. "These exciting findings show that the microalgae and the coral are in direct communication with each other. We're putting all our efforts into this now in case we need it to have it ready as an intervention in the future."

We carry an article on surrogacy written by Sonnette Badenhorst, an attorney with Maponya. It was interesting, albeit disturbing, to read the majority judgment of Justice Bess Nkabinde which finds that there is the rational purpose of creating a bond between child and commissioning parent, or parents that requires at least one of the parent's gametes. If this is so important, where does that leave children who are adopted – without any hope of a bond? And that is certainly not true, as many adopted children will testify.

Everyone has their own particular challenge during this lockdown period. Parents have a particular challenge – to remain positive and keep the family positive too, school children, produce their usual standard of work and provide a happy environment. We have been permitted to publish an article written for parents of The Ridge School written by Candice Fletcher; take the time to read it – it really is for everyone.

As readers of without prejudice will know, we carry artworks from the Constitutional Court Art Trust on the front cover of the magazine each month. The first artwork that appeared in March 2019 was that of the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress. The very beautiful and dramatic photographs by Neo Ntsoma featuring transgender model and activist Yaya Mavundla wearing the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress were donated by the Dutch Embassy in South Africa to the Constitutional Court Trust (CCT), custodian of the Constitutional Court Art Collection (CCAC), to mark the 2020 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), held on 17 May. For those who do not know and, as a reminder to others, The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress is a work of art made from the flags of all countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. A country's flag is changed to a rainbow flag when such legislation is changed. It aims to create awareness of the persecution of LGBTIQ+ people, and is a powerful example of how art can be used to champion the cause of justice and humanity.

Look out for 'The Class of 2014 – Where are they now?' feature which will appear mid-June.