He was a hero to some when he challenged the South African government’s stringent Covid-19 lockdown regulations in the High Court and won but now Reyno Dawid de Beer and his self-styled Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) are facing possible criminal sanction, writes Tania Broughton.
This sanction is for LFN members’ “insulting” attitude towards the judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and its President Judge Mandisa Maya.
Of late, South African judges have been banging their gavels loudly when litigants have overstepped the mark of what is considered acceptable criticism of judges and the judiciary.
And, the matter before the SCA - an appeal by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs against the ruling in favour of de Beer and the LFN in the Gauteng High Court which struck down many of the regulations as being unlawful - is another case in point.
The high court ruling had little impact because the minister immediately noted an appeal, suspending its order.
And the SCA has now set aside the order of the lower court and ordered that its judgment - and its scathing comments about De Beer - be brought to the attention of the National Director of Public Prosecutions.
On the merits, the appeal court essentially ruled that De Beer and the LFN were nothing more than “Covid-19” denialists whose case had not been properly pleaded and was not based on any scientific or medical facts.
In fact, the five judges said, the case was “an object lesson as to how constitutional challenges to promulgated regulations should not be brought”.
His application “defied a concise summary” but the underlying theme was that de Beer believed he had a right to rely on his immune system, without Government interference.
The minister, on the other hand, had taken advice from medical and scientific experts before imposing lockdown regulations, arguing that the limitations on fundamental freedoms were justified to save lives and preserve state resources.
But what really riled the judges was De Beer’s behaviour when the appeal was set down to be heard “virtually”, over Microsoft Teams, as per the Chief Justice’s directives at that time.
In insisting that he wanted an in person hearing, he accused the judges of bias and asked for their recusal.
He said a virtual hearing was contrary to the very heart of his application - that the regulations were not necessary - and the judges were no longer independent.
In correspondence with the court, he attached a 100 dollar Monopoly note which, he said, was symbolic of the fact that “virtual courts, judges and money do not actually exist”.
In response to an apology for a late response to his correspondence, he informed the court that it could “stick its apology in its arse”
He accused Judge Maya of allowing “Covid-19 flimflam to take over the courts judicial functionality and to desecrate the institution to the point of pure codswallop which it is today - nothing but a mere extension of Government’s narrative.”
The appeal judges said this was “crass, insulting, disrespectful and inexcusable”.
They said while courts were not above criticism, it was time to draw a “judicial line in the sand” and that his statements went “beyond the pale”.
To join Africa Legal's mailing list please click here
Copyright : Re-publication of this article is authorised only in the following circumstances; the writer and Africa Legal are both recognised as the author and the website address www.africa-legal.com and original article link are back linked. A bio for the writer can be provided on request.