Wearing masks, fines imposed and how it affects you

15 July 2020 - 05:30 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Store managers, public transport drivers and other compliance officers must enforce the wearing of masks or they could face imprisonment or a fine.
Store managers, public transport drivers and other compliance officers must enforce the wearing of masks or they could face imprisonment or a fine.
Image: filadendron/iStock via AFP Relaxnews

The government is considering taking action against store managers, public transport drivers and other compliance officers who fail to enforce the wearing of face masks.

On Monday, justice minister Ronald Lamola said the government has been reluctant to criminalise those who have not been compliant with the regulations on the wearing of face masks and has been left with no choice but to hold lawbreakers accountable.

Here is what you need to know.

Who will be held liable

According to Lamola, owners of the premises, vehicles and other compliance officers in public spaces will be held liable for breaking the law if people are found in their facilities not wearing masks.

He said the duty was on those in charge to ensure that no-one enters without a mask.

“The obligation and duty have been put on store managers, owners, building owners and those responsible for various places were members of the public can congregate or find themselves in,” said Lamola.

No crime for individuals but this could change

While wearing a mask in a public place is mandatory, it's not yet a criminal offence for individuals if they don't.

However, Lamola said this could change in the future if there isn’t any improvement in the behaviour of individuals.

“There have been instances where people have been irresponsible, they have not worn a mask when in public places including when entering shops or in taxis and various platforms,” Lamola said.

“It has made the lives of members of the public difficult, including law enforcement officers' lives very difficult, if people are not wearing a mask in a particular place.”

Criminal offence

Lamola said not wearing a face mask was a criminal offence and the government is currently dealing with some aspects of this development but there would be no difference between a fine and imprisonment as punishment.

“It does indeed create a criminal offence, so as it stands it does not differentiate between a fine or imprisonment, both of them give you some kind of a criminal offence,” he said

What the law says

In the latest gazette that was published Sunday, drivers of any form of public transport, building managers and store owners will face six months and/or fines if they allow people without masks on their premises.

Employers, school principals as well as managers or owners of early childhood development centres will also face the same penalties if they don't enforce mask-wearing.

The regulations are open for comment and these can be sent to comments@hsrc.ac.za, Lamola said.

Making masks “cool”

Lamola said wearing masks in public should be “normalised” and be a “cool” thing.

“It must be embarrassing to move around without a mask,” he said. “It must be cool to move with a mask. And it must be something which is becoming the new normal.”